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Do you allow social media connections between yourself and customers?

As a solo founder, I often find it difficult to know where I stop and my business begins, and that seems to bleed over into social media as well. For instance, I don't friend my employees on Facebook, and I try to keep my social life off of LinkedIn. But in the nascent stages, we are our companies, right? Or shouldn't we be?

I have been receiving LinkedIn requests from customers or potential customers for my personal LinkedIn profile, and I find myself hesitant to approve them or ignore them.

I understand the value to building a network and that, especially in the B2B space, customers can be great advocates and a huge asset for LinkedIn marketing. However, these are not directed at my business pages, they are for my personal profile.

And I don't know if it's healthy to expose customers to the turbulence of a startup. What happens if a year from now, my company isn't going well and I need to leverage my LinkedIn network for a job or to avoid a really ugly exit. I don't necessarily want customers privy to that information until I have good solutions for them.

Curious how other founders deal with the cross over between their business and personal lives as it relates to social media.

3 Replies

Rob Gropper
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Rob Gropper Entrepreneur
Director at PetHero, SPC - Member at Eastside Incubator - Principal at Tuxedo Technologies Group
first off, i am no social media expert by any stretch, but i think this depends on now you view LinkedIn and how you use it. I view LinkedIn and use it almost exclusively asa reasonably efficient way to establish and maintain an electronic connection with a business contact - the digital equivalent of exchanging business cards, only better. That's it - a way to stay in contact with a vendor, business partner, customer, prospect, etc. so in the future if they need to reach me or visa versa LinkedIn can facilitate that. I don't see my linkedin profile as my 'personal' profile, it is my 'business profile', period. I personally think LinkedIn needs to implement multiple personas as we often have different types of connections and relationships with vendors VS customers, VS business partners, VS employees, VS fellow entrepreneurs, etc., but that's a topic for another discussion. I suspect if you view LinkedIn as more of a digital resume then that is what's causing the hesitation. I do connect with customers and prospects on LI all the time and that's all i use it for (and business pages). "social media" is a pretty broad catch-all. I certainly don't leverage social media to the extent that i could, but i'm simply not interested in spewing forth my personal views via LinkedIn - Twitter and FB are perhaps better venues for that, but i don't use Twitter or FB much either. I know LinkedIn is trying to increase engagement and thus trying to make it more of a pontification platform, but Personally i think that's what personal blogs are for. As you can see when making comments here on FD (this comment will likely get moderated out) they auto check the "post to LinkedIn" check box below, but 1) this comment doesn't make sense to my business contacts (LI contacts) outside of the context of FD and 2) I have a different relationship with fellow entrepreneurs (on FD) than i do with my general business contacts on LI. FD is the place i choose to discuss startup and founder and entrepreneur-related stuff (employees, terms sheets, equity, etc., not LinkedIn and not FB. Maybe it's a matter of siloing the 'social media' platforms you use? It's funny, i have a few patents in the area of what we now call 'social media', but i use it pretty sparingly.

as a side note I'd like to see LinkedIn do things like feed me news when a key customer does something news worthy like acquire a competitor or file for bankruptcy or release a new product. I'd like to see LinkedIn interface with my calendar and feed me news and information about the two people i'm meeting with this afternoon and what's going on with their company and industry.... maybe that's a comment i would share on LinkedIn.
Sean Goldsmith
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Sean Goldsmith Advisor
Interviewing The Worlds Top Franchise Experts
Hey Kevin,

Great question. I am on LinkedIn quite a lot and I think there is a way that you can make quite a lot of your profile "hidden". But it is a tough one that I have also struggled with.
Deborah Tutnauer, MEd, MSW
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Business & Entrepreneurs Solutions. I help people increase their income and happiness. Authentic Foundation & Framework.
Hi Kevin,

"Social Media" is a catch term for everything from Snapchat to LinkedIn. Each social media platform has a different culture and focus. LinkedIn is a business networking site. From my perspective your "personal profile" on LinkedIn should in fact be You as a Professional. You can then also set up a LinkedIn business page for your company.

The lines between professional and personal have blurred in the 21st century, prompting explorations and questions like yours. The reality is that people/clients/customers are searching for authenticity. No longer is there the luxury of hiding behind your proverbial pin stripe suit, or professional credentials. You certainly wouldn't post pictures of your puppy or last night's party on LinkedIn, because that is not the culture of the platform. But you certainly want to be yourself - share your updates - your values - your story. Those are what people connect to, including your customers.

Facebook is very different and many solve the FB problem by having a personal profile and a business fan page. You can also segment your FB list of friends into categories, and then decide who should see your posts. Twitter can be both, or you may choose to create multiple Twitter accounts.

Studies have shown that companies that actively engage with their customers on social media, score high for caring and service. I hope that helps.
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