I was interviewed by the super-cool Joey Vitale of Indie Law this morning. If you missed it, you can watch here: https://www.facebook.com/indielawfirm/videos/514123725603838

One thing we talked about was using social media for business growth, and separating your personal life from your business persona online. This was unfortunately right when we got cut off, so I wanted to write a blog to expound upon my thoughts on leveraging your social media presence to build your business.

Be personal.

How personal? Well, the great part about being a small business owner is that it’s totally up to you! Some people absolutely do not share pictures of their children on social media and/or their business page. That’s fine! Obviously we have to be careful about how much information we put out there these days. I have a cover photo I whipped up in Picmonkey that asks customers not to private message my personal page, but rather contact me by email. At first I thought this was just a personal measure – to keep my personal page truly personal. After a while I realized what a wonderful time-saver it has become – no more chasing down messages across multiple platforms.

Also keep in mind that you could potentially alienate customers by sharing bits of your personal life that may be controversial, like your religious or political opinions. Decide before you share your first post: does this opinion fuel or contribute to your business in any way? If so or if not, is it important enough to you to turn off potential customers?

Be authentic.

Speaking of opinions, let’s talk about separating your personal life from your business while still being true to yourself. You started a business because you were passionate about something, right? Stay true to your passion and the reason you started your business. When customers catch on to your excitement, it builds demand and it is important in building your brand. “Oh, she’s the one who’s always doing live videos!” or “He’s the one who interviews other small business people!”

There’s a trouble zone of authenticity in business that you’ll want to side-step. Run your business like a business, which may mean that you don’t reveal certain parts of yourself. Cursing, giving “TMI” (too much information) moments, allowing friendships and personal relationships to interfere with your business – these may be things you’d like to avoid, even if it feels “authentic” to you. This is highly subjective to your business – hey, there are some hilarious patterns for sale on Etsy right now that are expletive-filled. Their customers probably frequent them for their crafty cursing needs! For me, I feel that the majority of my audience does not care for that, so I steer clear of language that I may use around my pals, but would turn off customers.

I once attended a meeting for creative entrepreneurs during which the leader, a photographer, confessed that she felt a little like a phony for having what she thought as “separate personalities” when dealing with customers vs. her everyday life. I piped up, “So if you worked in an office, you would act the same at work as you do when you go out with your friends?” Of course not. You even wear different clothes! “Work you” and “personal you” are different, and that’s okay.

Personally, I revel in being able to compartmentalize Designs-by-Little-Bee-Melissa, and watching-Golden-Girls-with-wine-Melissa. It’s healthy, and it’s a privilege. If my kids are being incorrigible, if I have a headache, if my husband just made me mad, or if I just flat out woke up on the wrong side of the bed, guess what? I don’t have to work! And my personal life, which actually includes a few of my colleagues, is my break room – my “water cooler” at the office, if you will. I can vent, I can share my opinions, I can use whatever language I like. As both an artist and a business owner, this is invaluable.

Be consistent.

Whatever your communication method or customer service style you choose, be consistent with it. I try to direct customers to email me instead of  private messaging on Facebook – I’ve always done this. I try my best to answer messages at a certain time of day so people know what to expect, and I try to maintain a level of professionalism in my communication so that customers feel they can trust me. As I said before, one perk of being a small business owner is that you don’t have to work if you don’t want to! So if you’re feeling snippy or having a rough day, just tune out of customer service. Don’t give customers a grouchy business owner – they’ll remember that!

Customers want to spend their hard-earned money with someone they trust. If you never respond to their emails, you’re iffy with shipping on time, or you appear grumpy in half of your interactions, they won’t want to keep shopping with you.

The bottom line is that thanks to the internet, customers have more choices than ever. There will always be someone cheaper than you, faster than you, friendlier than you, or someone that people just like more than you! I bet off the top of your head, you can think of a colleague who is faster at customer service than you, who does an incredible job of marketing him/herself, and even someone who has earned a bad reputation in your industry for one thing or another. Don’t give your customers a reason to shop anywhere else. Be personal, be authentic, and be consistent. Show them that you value their business and will earn their loyalty.