When you first take the leap to starting your own business online, whether you’re selling a product, providing a service or making money through affiliate marketing, it can be a real shock to realize that suddenly your entire online life is connected to your business. Once you start promoting what you do via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and whatever other social networks you use, you’ve created a link between your business and yourself that is very hard to break.
Practically speaking, that’s a good thing. Successfully integrating your social networks and your business gives you avenues for promotion, generates traffic through likes and shares, and makes it much less awkward to introduce your business into casual online conversation. But there’s a dangerous side to the coin too: what happens when your personal life and your business aren’t quite on the same page philosophically?
Voice vs brand: the Don Jones story
After Michael Sam became the first openly gay football player drafted to the NFL, Miami Dolphins player Don Jones reacted to video of Sam joyously kissing his boyfriend after the announcement with a damning tweet: “horrible”. Homophobia aside, Don Jones has every right to think whatever he wants in private, but when he posted that tweet he forgot one very important thing: as a professional sportsman and a public figure, he is part of the NFL brand, and the NFL had just publicly branded itself as accepting of homosexual players. The NFL disciplined Don Jones immediately, and rightly so, because no matter how many individual NFL players might secretly have agreed with him, his tweet damaged the brand – and, when you’re running your own business, your brand is always more important to success than the individual voices of you and your teammates.
Let your personal thoughts out – just not via your brand
There will always be days when what you feel is at odds with your brand. Perhaps you’re selling an app designed for iPhones, but after a week of hardware issues, software issues, terrible customer support and awful beta tests, all you want is to see every iPhone fired into the sun at high velocity while the world switches to Android. Take a deep breath, invite a friend out for a drink and bemoan your woes in private over a beer or three. What you say to your friends at a bar is over and done with once you’ve finished drinking, and you can start again with a fresh perspective the next day. But once you’ve posted something on your Facebook page or Twitter feed, it’s very hard to take it back, and if you can’t show confidence in your brand, then why should anyone else?