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How to maintain a personal identity when growing an online business

Growing a business today means growing a business online. No matter if yours is a local brick and mortar or a fully virtual shop, every business needs to have an online presence.

Consumers turn to the internet first when making purchasing decisions–up to 97 percent looking for local companies online. So if you don’t carve a space for yourself there, you’re truly holding yourself back from the growth you want and need. Because if you’re leading a company, those who are looking for your business online will also look for you there.

If you’re not a Millennial, putting yourself out there online can be daunting. How do I differentiate between myself and my business? Is it safe for me to post? How do I know? Why does it matter, anyway?

It matters. It matters not only because your customers are turning to the internet and, primarily, social media to find your goods and services. It also matters because if you’re a business owner, you need to be a part of the conversation about your brand.

As a business owner, it feels easy to lose your identity behind your business–similar to the feeling when you become a parent or an executive. The people around you identify with you differently. But one of the great things about social media is that you get to control your own personal brand, more than ever before. Easy access to free publishing tools have made sure of that.

Keep business out of your personal brand

One of the easiest ways to maintain your own personal brand online is to keep business off your personal pages. It’s actually against Facebook terms and conditions to post about your business on the platform (see 4.4 of the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities), though many business owners often ignore this rule.

(Don’t be tempted to post about your business though–just because someone else is doing it doesn’t make it right. It’s only a matter of time before they get shut down. And yes, that does happen.)

Many individuals use Facebook as a way to keep tabs on family and friends across the globe and it really is the perfect communication tool–from sharing photos to personal messages to organizing gatherings. But that doesn’t mean you can’t let your family and friends know about your business on your personal profile.

In the Intro section of your personal profile on Facebook, include your business tagline and a link to your business Facebook page or add your website domain. This is a subtle way to maintain the integrity of your personal profile while also giving your friends information about your business–without violating the platform’s terms.

What should you avoid? Don’t post your blogs, ask for followers on your business page or directly sell your products and services on your personal profile. It’s simply bad form and your friends and family likely don’t care about your business–aside from the fact that you have one.

Be more relatable in your business brand

No matter the size of your business, your audience wants to see the personality behind it. As the business owner (or a top-level exec), that’s you. Your fans don’t want to see kitten videos and family photos all day; save that for your personal profiles. They want to hear about your business and its processes, they want you to educate them about your expertise and they want to know that your company is the go-to resource in your niche.

Aside from that, however, your audience also wants to know that there’s a human side to your brand. The business doesn’t run on its own and it’s not an inanimate object. There are people working behind the scenes–people with their own traits and areas of expertise. And often, those “people” are you and only you.

You are an ambassador for your brand. Your goal with sharing a bit of yourself in your business is to build goodwill with your audience. This reputational capital is something you can bank if and when you need it down the road. When your audience looks at your business as having human qualities–you and your personality–they’re much more forgiving when tragedy strikes.

Look at it this way: Steve Jobs is forever synonymous with Apple. Bill Gates will always be tied to Microsoft. And when someone thinks of Pepsi, they’re likely to think of Indra Nooyi.

Go forth and share pics from your company’s super bowl party on LinkedIn. Let your customers know on your business’s Facebook page that you and your management team finished a marathon together. And tweet out that your favorite team is going to the World Series.

The more you share on your business page, the more relatable you’ll be–and you’ll be growing your personal brand in the meantime. Just be sure to keep one foot in the business camp with every post, and use those more personal posts sparingly.

For more on how to grow your personal brand online, grab my guide to the top rookie mistakes that professionals like you make when using social media.

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