Now that three of my colleagues have weighed in on the question of Facebook pervasiveness and use for business, as well as the blurred lines between personal and professional use, I thought I’d weigh in with my own thoughts on the matter.
I started using Facebook in April 2007 after it had become available to non-university students. At the time there were 20 Million people on Facebook (compared to over a Billion today), and MySpace was the leading social network (a record they held till April 2008). Using Facebook it was easy to connect with friends and family that were already on the network, and I was quickly able to re-connect with people who had been part of my life in the past. Status updates allowed me to participate in the lives of so many that had either gone by the way side or forgotten through time and miles. The social network made sharing a daily affair and I enjoyed connecting on common values, likes and ideas.
When I went into financial services, the use of Facebook for personal connections with clients and prospects was not allowed. As a result my attentions shifted to LinkedIn for professional connections and network development keeping Facebook as a personal network with friends and family. This continued until I left the business and was no longer a registered representative. Despite the new found freedom, I still maintained my Facebook as a more personal network and when I started working at Actiance I too approached the invitation from work colleagues to connect on Facebook on a personal level with trepidation. Facebook was MY personal network, and I was initially a little nervous to share that part of my life. Mind you, it wasn’t that I had anything to hide, I just wasn’t sure if I wanted people at work to know me THAT well. However, I did and continue to do so today, and like Joanna I enjoy the discovery of common interests we share, and learning more about their likes, dislikes and passions. It has enriched the experience of working at Actiance and allowed me to know the people I collaborate with on a more personal level. On Monday mornings water cooler talk doesn’t require us to ask each other what happened over the weekend- because we know. Instead, we can ask about the experience. How did it feel? How much fun was it? Instead of what did you do?
I think we’d all prefer to present our true self…. our authentic self. “Be Yourself” was a rally cry of our youth and the reality is there is not point in denying who you are, quirks and all (people will find out eventually anyway).
Back in 2011 I wrote about this when I encouraged financial advisors entering the world of social media to avoid losing their voice and replacing it with corporate canned messages. I still believe this today and caution financial institutions to avoid forcing their language and messages through their networked employees and allow them an opportunity to provide their own voice. People want to work with people who work at brands, not the other way around. Here is the message I shared, and continue to share today.
BE AUTHENTIC! A message to new social media users in Financial Services:
Welcome to the world of social media networking! As an early adopter and advocate of social networking in financial services, I look forward to the new voices and thought leaders that will emerge In the months and years to come.
Before you get started, let me share some simple advice: BE AUTHENTIC!
I know this may be a new world for you, and that learning how to use social media may seem like learning a foreign language. It’s not. If necessary, get help to learn HOW to use the tools, but resist the urge to have others speak on your behalf.
Don’t rely or use the “canned” messages created for you by your public relations, corporate communications, or compliance departments. Instead exercise the voice that has led you all along and has built the business you own today. Let your unique voice communicate who you are and what you represent in social networking circles. You know why people work with you-tell us!
Trust that the amplified nature of social media networking will reveal the thought leader that you are, and value you add each day.
Your audience is out there listening- it’s time to engage!
What do you think? How important is it to have an authentic voice when it comes to social media?
NOTE: If you are worried about exposing too much of yourself on Facebook, you can always use groups to create your own private circles of trust within Facebook. I did this by setting up a Gaxiola Family Group that is secret (until now) and cannot be found on search. In this group we share personal stories, photos and videos and all comments, shares, likes, etc. are limited to the members of the group.
This post originally ran on the Actiance blog on January 10, 2013.