There was a line in the first Ghostbusters movie where Harold Ramis’ character urged the team never to ‘cross the streams’ when they were using their ghost-capturing technology. Unfortunately a lot of people are doing the same thing with their social media and it can get ugly. While the world may not end for all of us, this can be a huge nail in the coffin for some businesses. You don't want your business to turn into a ghost, do you?
Social media is one of the most interesting things that’s ever come along. You can hit Facebook or Instagram with all sorts of things, from what you had for breakfast to your latest vacation photos to your sense of frustration with work. Ooops, there’s where the stream just got crossed.
Unfortunately many business owners make the mistake of having their customers or their team as personal friends on social media. This can also backfire. We all have frustrating days where things don’t go well with processes or people - that’s normal life. But I’ve seen business owners rant on social media about a frustrating day at work or poor performance by team members.
That is when things can get ugly. It can be worse when you deal with the public.
Let’s be honest here. Not all people are people you want to spend time with. When some folks get out in public their behavior turns pretty sour and some people’s actions makes you wonder how they had the intelligence to work the comb that morning. Even Albert Einstein was known for leaving the house with mismatched shoes so really smart people can do really questionable things.
As a business owner if your friends are people who might also be your customers and you express some of this frustration it causes people to question whom you’re referring to. People also know that if you’re speaking badly about someone and it’s not them this time, it could be the next.
There are business owners whom I’ve told to get rid of their personal social media accounts for this reason. Some people are just not good at social media and it can turn around and cross the streams on your business.
Another way that a social presence can backfire is simple class separation. The business owner is likely going to have more resources (if they’re doing things properly) than the entry-level team members at their business. This could likely mean that their vacations are the stuff that only happens in their team members’ dreams. A nice car, a nice house or enviable getaways can also create animosity among the team.
If the front office manager asks for a raise and you don’t feel that’s appropriate right now but then you head out on an Alaska cruise a week later, you won’t be making points with someone who might be the first person the customer sees when they walk in the door.
Worst of all is the incredible divisiveness of our political climate. I’ve never seen such a divided country when it comes to politics and there’s a very good chance that your beliefs, no matter what they are, are in direct opposition to some of your team members or customers.
I’m not a big fan of having paying customers or team members as social media friends. I also am very careful about what I post, even though you’ll see my personal social posts as being frivolous and silly.
Another big, big challenge are posts by your friends to your social presence. You might be known as the person who can give a voice to every pet and wild creature on the planet but that might not be what you’d care to share with your colleagues at work - or your boss. Or your employees. Incidentally I do have a voice for my dog. And my wife’s desert tortoise.
Oh, and if your spelling isn’t very good this is another way people judge people. I am, after all, the grammar patrol captain and it does bother me to see poor spelling and grammar on a business page but also on a personal page. Those who are bothered by bad spelling are really bothered by it.
I strongly urge a lot of business owners to actually not have a public-facing personal social media presence. Not everybody is good at making wise decisions about what to post and what not to. Furthermore, in this very adversarial political climate your posting for one side of the aisle can truly upset someone on the other and sometimes the position a customer or team member is on might not be immediately apparent.
Take a very close look at your social presence personally and see how it might interact in an unfortunate way with your voice as a business. After all, you don’t want the ghost of a post to haunt you for life. Then who ya’ gunna call?