Conventional social media wisdom goes something like this:
You’re trying to achieve business results, but you also (of course) have personal thoughts, charisma, and interesting ideas. If you build your social media “following” through personal updates and share relevant industry articles, you will then have a responsive audience for your own business products and services. Social media gives you the chance to integrate your personal and professional interests for (ultimately) commercial benefit.
In summary: Build an audience and then sell to them.
This strategy works for analysts, consultants, speakers, and other people whose own knowledge is the product that they are selling. However, most professionals do not have their own knowledge as their product.
When reviewing how you should approach social media, what matters is audience. Is the audience that you are going to build actually relevant? Are your social media followers potential customers or are they your competition, industry analysts, and social media fanatics?
- For example, recruiters are often told that they should be “on” Twitter. They post interesting recruiting articles and recruiting news, employment trends, etc… They typically build a following of other recruiters, some local industry contacts, and recruiting industry consultants and analysts. After building up a social media following, they then start to inject job postings, updates on their assignments they are working on, and requests for referrals. There is of course nothing wrong with this, but are these updates effective distribution? Does that audience really care?
- Imagine a VP of marketing at a food service software company. The real interests of that VP of marketing probably consist of marketing, analytics, sales, or marketing management. Yet that person will often feel like it’s in their best interests to tweet about software development trends or the food service industry to attract potential clients. Do the friends and marketing industry followers of that person care about the food service industry? Probably not.
The promise of social media is personalization and connection. It would seem that the integrated approach to updates (providing both personal and work related) would be most closely aligned with the spirit and intention of social media – which would then yield commercial benefit. However, is authenticity really determined by the cohesiveness of your personal brand? Is there really any way to combine your own personal interests with your commercial interests in an authentic and effective manner?
It may in fact be much more authentic and effective to split your social media personality – divide your personal and professional accounts so you can build responsive and interested audiences for each. To use the two examples above:
- Instead of the recruiter writing about their recruiting interests and then posting a stray position, that recruiter starts two accounts – one for connecting personally and in the industry, and the other with the specific purpose of recruiting candidates and building clients. If that recruiter recruits software developers, the account can tweet software news, software jobs, and connect with software developers. The account becomes a very specific resource for a targeted audience.
- Instead of the marketing VP tweeting about the food service industry to their collection of marketing industry and personal contacts, they start an account just for food service software news. They contribute news, analysis, tips, even jobs to this account and build a targeted following of food service industry folks and food service technology enthusiasts.
Over the long term, which method sounds most effective for distributing relevant content? Would the recruiter get more candidates and clients with a targeted social profile? Would the marketing VP get more sales leads for their food service software with split or integrated social accounts?
It should be said that using split social media accounts doesn’t necessarily imply de-personalization. Many professionals split their accounts into one “real” account with a personal picture and quality updates and the other a “junk” account that spams out job postings, industry news, etc… for commercial intent. However, this is the wrong way to split your social media personality. The recruiter should manage their recruiting and jobs related account with the same sense of personal ownership and dedication as their personal profile. Over time, these focused accounts can gain large, targeted followings and may be more effective than a single cohesive account.
Splitting your social media profiles seems to be the most effective way to build a targeted audience. Popular opinion usually equates singular, integrated accounts with authenticity – however, the exact opposite might be true. Split social media profiles can be more honest in that they separate commercial and personal intent. How do you approach social media? Have you had luck with either integrating your personal and work updates or splitting the two?