The Grey Line Between Professional and Personal on Social Media

Most professionals in the workplace have grown up with at least an awareness of, if not a presence on, the internet; the growth in use since its creation has been a phenomenon. Something which began to creep into some homes through the 1990s is now in the hands, pockets, offices, and homes of millions of people worldwide. Over 40% of the world’s population has a profile or presence on social media today, and that figure is growing.

Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z have grown up with the internet prominent in their lives, and baby boomers have a strong familiarity with its growth. Where marketing once relied on the conscious effort to reach out to people, we can now share every minute detail of our lives – work and personal – in the blink of an eye.  In 2019, 90.4% of Millennials, 77.5% of Generation X, and 48.2% of Baby Boomers were active social media users. (Emarketer)

This being so normal and prevalent is, in many ways, a great thing – and, as a device for marketing and networking, we recognise the power that the internet brings to even the smallest of businesses, levelling the playing field of advertising and customer relationships, and making it possible for people to reach out directly to CEOs and shop floor teams alike. 

It can, however, also be a negative; we’ve all seen news stories of people losing their job because of something inappropriate they’ve said online, using their presence to cause hurt or offence, and lines between professional relationships and personal ones being crossed. 

It’s vital for a business to maintain an online presence and interact with their audience on social media – where they can discuss relevant news, current events, achievements and promotions. Those relationships being human, personal and active is also a benefit – being a ‘person’ rather than a corporate front goes a long way to improving business relationships and customer engagement. 

But what if that leads to business contacts trying to add you as a friend on your personal profile, or taking the informal environment to cross lines into personal comments, overtly friendly or even very personal comments, and behaving in a way that simply isn’t ‘business’? 

There is, of course, a grey area – some people we work with become friends, some friends may lead to business connections – but our advice as digital marketing specialists is to maintain a distance, and to be friendly but remember that you aren’t friends with clients; you’re there to provide a service and to represent your business or organisation in that environment. 

Katey Horne, Founder of Your Marketing Needs says, “Privacy for socials can be a huge thing – I often work with companies where they are not aware of just how public their profiles are, and it can sometimes come as a shock. We always recommend to our clients to review and regularly update their social media policies to ensure their team are mindful. When it comes to friend requests it is always a good idea to establish boundaries with social media for your company, but also for your team.  We have a strict ‘no friend’ policy on our team’s private accounts. This means that we cause no offence in not responding to friend requests (as we share this policy with our clients) and then also ensures the privacy for our team.”

Informal is a big step away from inappropriate – and whilst it’s easy to relax and become less stuffy when you’re communicating through your keyboards and smartphone screens, you must remind yourself that you’re not ‘you’ entirely – you’re the at work version of you. If you wouldn’t say that thing, or behave that way, in your office or in a meeting with that person, then you absolutely shouldn’t say that thing or behave that way online. 

With social media activity only going up, new kids on the block TikTok have seen more rapid growth in use than any other platform, outperforming Instagram and YouTube; Facebook and Twitter are still growing, though slower, and LinkedIn has evolved from a digital CV to a global network of experts sharing insight and advice. Each platform has a different vibe, a different audience and its own way of communicating.

Call our team for advice and support to get your business in front of your target audience, in the places they’re already looking. Call 01582 292016 or email today to find out more.