One of the toughest and earliest plagues for small business owners trying to figure out social media is deciding whether to use a brand account or a personal account. Without even getting into the details, since we are talking about social, personal comes first. Always.

The Goal Is to Share

When you consider using social media what you really need to think about is what you will share. Sharing is what social media is built on. So what you share and how you will share it are what you need to ponder when planning your strategy and your accounts setup.

People don’t socialize with brands, they socialize with people. So even if you have a brand account for your business, finding a way to feature your people through it is essential. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when sorting through this issue:

1. What is Your Business Really About?

What is your value proposition, the one thing you’re good for? If you sell lawnmowers, is it your broad selection, your expertise in making the right selection, or your amazing support service that sets you apart?

If it’s selection, feature content from across the web that exposes your audience to a broad selection of lawn mowing products so I can rely on you for what you do best. If it is expertise, share content that gives insight into the selection process so I can rely on you to give the best selection advice? If it is excellent service, then share tips and advice that extends your great service and share content that celebrates excellent service in any field.

Let your content tell the story of your true value over a long period with consistency.

2. What Kind of Sharing Will Build Relationships With People?

Lawn appliance businesses don’t have friendships, attend concerts, enjoy great restaurants, prefer one hockey team over another, or take their kids on play dates. People do, and those details of our lives are what relationships are built on that a business account can never take part in with authenticity.

When you know what the true value of your business is, let your brand social accounts extend that value and let your personal accounts represent you as a person who happens to be part of that business.

3. How Will You Have Conversations Through Your Accounts?

Brands can share value. People share value and conversations. Through conversations we build relationships. In an online exchange, it’s all we have to share that is essentially us. Even when we share video, music or other media, it is the conversations around that media that make connections personal and feed relationships that can turn into loyal customers. People extend the value of the brand by sharing and conversing in a way that a brand can’t.

Socializing with a brand is like getting to know someone at a masquerade party. It can be fun and there can be some value but by not knowing who the person is behind the mask, there can’t be much depth to the relationship until the mask comes off. At the very least, a brand account should mention in its bio who the people are behind the management of the account. It will personalize it a bit.

The reluctance for many people to be themselves online is what truly undermines a brand’s social media efforts, especially at the top. Like a teenager who is frightened to attend all of the school dances -  except the Halloween one where they can hide behind a costume - business people who hide behind their brand to do “social” may be compromising the great opportunity that social media provides: relationship.

How do you separate your business and personal accounts and why?