June 14, 2017

Let's be honest, I'm wading into treacherous waters with this topic. It's one that many people are very opinionated about. I'm talking about when people use their personal profiles on social media to promote their businesses.

And, no I'm not talking about those who post the occasional thing about their business, or who share professional accomplishments with their friends and family. I'm talking about those businesses and brands who use their personal profiles for the purpose of business.

Most larger businesses don't run this issue of using personal profiles, because they're not built on a "person". But entrepreneurs, small businesses, personal brands, and others often find it easier, and convenient, to use their personal profiles to build their business. I'm not going to hold back any punches here... we all know that the multi-level-marketers (MLM) are some of the worst out there. Now, many of these people are wonderful and don't use this tactic, but if any of your friends or family run an MLM business, you know what I'm talking about!

And, to be honest, there are plenty of "experts" in the social media space who are guilty of this same thing.

In fact, this topic comes up frequently in groups and conversations with my peers.

Because it. keeps. happening!

And it's driving many of us crazy!

Which is why I'm here, ranting about my thoughts on the topic ๐Ÿ˜‰

Ok, so why do people keep using their personal profiles for business? Because it's easy, it's a sneaky way around algorithms and rankings, and "everyone else is doing it".

Insert my frustrated, eye-rolling face here!

But now, the real reasons to stop using your personal profiles for your business.

Every platform is different and have different criteria for personal versus professional use. Twitter doesn't differentiate, so you're all good there. Instagram just recently started allowing businesses to use Business profiles so there's still some gray area here. Pinterest makes it so easy to convert to a business account now and, for many of the reasons below, you really should. And Facebook... well, you really do need a business page. Period.

It's More than "Frowned Upon"

This applies mostly to Facebook since they're the strictest of all the major platforms. If you haven't read their terms of service (because, really, who reads those things?), let me just share this information with you.

According to Facebook's terms of service:

  • You will not use your personal timeline primarily for your own commercial gain, and will use a Facebook Page for such purposes.
  • You will not create more than one personal account.

These two statements alone make it perfectly clear that you are not to run your personal profile for business purposes!

Of course, the lawyerly types skirt around this by reminding us that their "personal profile" isn't "primarily" for commercial gain. Meaning, they have friends and family on the profile. They share personal photos and lifetime events. They are merely "incorporating" their business ventures into their "life" on Facebook.

Oh - phooey! It's a bunch of BS and we all know it.

Not to mention, I know a bunch of people on Facebook who don't even post the personal stuff on Facebook. It's all business, all the time! They are more personal on Instagram than they are on Facebook.

Seriously, if you are using your personal profile purely to build connections, share your professional content, and build your brand... you're doing it wrong! And it's pissing people off.

But of course, it's probably working for you, right? You're getting better reach than those who are using a business Page (as required by Facebook rules). You're getting more interactions and engagement, so you're winning.

Good for you. Until Facebook shuts down your profile. And you lose everything. Have fun recovering from that one!

You're Limited

Did you know that many platforms actually impose limits on how many friends you can have?

Facebook caps you at 5000 friends. Even LinkedIn caps the number of connections you can have at 30,000 - which is a lot, but it's still a limit (and, yes I personally know people who are legitimately at that limit).

So, if you plan to grow your business to any significant follower count, you're only going to go so far using a personal profile. By contrast, a business profile will allow you accumulate followers without these restrictions.

You Look Like an Amateur

I told you, I'm not pulling any punches.

When you use a personal profile to brand your business, you look like an amateur. You look unprofessional. You look lazy.

It's like you're too "busy" to actually set up a professional page which makes me question your commitment to finding time to work with me. Just saying.

Even on Instagram, where business profiles are relatively new, people now recognize a business profile and the professionalism it conveys.

You Don't Get Analytics

By now, you know how I feel about having an effective social media strategy. You know what comes along with a strategy? Analytics to determine what is actually working!

And you know how you get analytics? By having a business profile!

If you're using your personal profile, you're missing out on valuable insights related to reach, engagement, audience metrics, and so much more.

Sure, if you only have 100 friends on your personal profile, it's easy to guess your way through these numbers and figure out what post content is performing best. But as those friend numbers grow, those details are quickly blurred and even lost.

You Can't Use Ads

Look, I'm not a huge fan of paid advertising on social media. Yes, I will use it under the right circumstances. And, I have actively encouraged many of my clients to use ads because it best suits their goals and end states.

The reality is that, no matter how you feel about ads, to run your business effectively on social media, you will, at some point, need to use advertising.

And you sure aren't going to be doing that on your personal profile! Because you don't have access. Simple.

You're Adding to the Problem

Plenty of people keep doing this and they keep justifying it (if not teaching it) because "everyone else is doing is so I should too".

Well, like your momma said, if all your friends jump off the bridge, will you do it too?

Maybe you would. That whole thrill seeking thing is more for some than others. But you get my point.

The more we proliferate that it's ok, because others are doing it, the more we spoil the batch for everyone else. We are teaching people, friends, business owners, that it's ok to skirt the rules, that it's ok to cheat the system. And we're setting them up for failure.

Stop.

Seriously.

If you're guilty of this practice, please make the efforts now to migrate your business to the profiles where it belongs. You're helping yourself in the long run.

Did you find this helpful? Please share:
  1. For Facebook, this was great advice about 5 years ago when people actually saw your business page posts. Now, not so much…

    1. I think that the reach problem is why so many people are using personal profiles (which Jenn mentions here). BUT that doesn’t take away any of the points she makes here. It is against the TOS. I know some mlms have been forbidden to even mention the name of their company for the excessive abuse of this. I think it’s a matter of time before we see more and more profiles booted out because of this. So, while it takes more work to build a page, it’s still how it SHOULD be done. I totally get what you’re saying, but this is more than advice; I feel like it’s a warning.

    2. Yes, Nick, it is unfortunate that page reach isn’t what it used to be. But this advice is even more important now than it was 5 years ago. And if you continue to push content on your personal profile, versus your business page, you’re only hurting your business page more because you’re not giving people the opportunity to engage there in the first place. Not to mention, it is against the terms of service, as mentioned above ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. How about having the biz pages…and then about once a week…sharing from your biz page?

    1. Hi Anna! Yes, if you are occasionally (like a once a week or a couple times a month) sharing your page content (directly as a share from the page) to your personal profile. That’s ok. It helps boost exposure, reach, etc. as well as letting your friends know you have a page too. I would recommend including a CTA in that shared post to encourage them to follow your page so that they don’t miss any valuable info you share exclusively on your page ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I want to really thank you for this post. I was wondering how and why to do this correctly and effectively. I built my brand on my personal page so switching over has been difficult. Funny enough I forget sometimes! Anyhow I really appreciate you and your expertise! Love listening to your podcast and reading your posts. Keep em coming!

    1. Thank you so much, Carrie ๐Ÿ™‚ And I’m so glad this helped clarify that transition and branding for you. It is hard when you start on a personal profile and then have to migrate your brand to another location or page. But it’s totally worth it and you can give your audience time to adapt and move along with you.

  4. I’m with ya all the way with lookin like an amateur. It’s like a bad smell — we can spot it a mile away and avoid it at all costs. Great post and I don’t think it really should ruffle any feathers. Whether you are big or small (like me!) when you run an online biz, it’s time to get with the program and run business accounts where business accounts should be. Not playing off your personal accounts. THe analytics alone are reason enough.

    1. Yes, Tanya! I recommend the switch for the analytics if nothing else! Having that information and knowing what’s really working or not is just so dang important. But I also love that comment: “it’s like a bad smell” ๐Ÿ™‚ Yes!! We instantly cringe when we see those profiles not doing it properly.

  5. Having a separate business page/profile definitely makes sense ~ especially on Facebook. I have to say that I am guilty on Pinterest (have a specific board for biz but not a separate profile) simply because I only share my once a week blog post. Pinterest is just not where my clients hang. And then there is LinkedIn. I only have my personal profile, but am contemplating taking the extra step and setting up a company one. It just hasn’t been an issue when in comes LI, so I put it off! haha

    1. lol – I know, Pinterest is like the one platform that still gets away with it. And, to be honest, I only *just* upgraded my Pinterest profile to a business account ๐Ÿ˜‰ And it still has all my baby boards on it, but oh well!
      To be honest, for your business and line of work, it would probably be smart to have a LinkedIn business profile to be better found in search and trusted in content information. Of course, I understand you use LI effectively as a person, but I think it would be beneficial to build that professional page too.

  6. You are absolutely right! Many businesses here in India are still confused between page and profile in Facebook. Later, they create the both and when they realise, their audience was already distributed between profile and the page. I personally feel that your profile must be used for personal branding (just like industry thought leader) and page must be use to promote your business.

    1. Thanks Bhautik. You’re right that too many people don’t know the difference between the two and get stuck as they build their business on two different spaces. And while I agree with your differentiation, there still has to be caution when using your personal profile for any branding. When you start accepting friend requests from people just to build a network, and pump out content related to your business/brand, you start to fall into the realm of business, which gets back to violating the terms of use for a personal profile. It can be done, but it’s a fine line to walk.

  7. I’ve got to say, I can’t agree: Sheryl Sandberg, Neil Patel, Dennis Yu – all incredibly professional leaders in their field using personal profiles to their personal brand’s gain. The difference is how you approach the content strategy. Personal profiles are extremely helpful when it comes to establishing yourself as an authority in whatever sphere you work in. Used in conjunction with business pages, they help out both. Content posted just has to be extremely authentic.

    1. You’re right, Anna. A lot of professionals do use their personal profiles. Though that doesn’t mean they should. They are doing it for many of the reasons mentioned in this article. But using a personal profile to build a personal brand and establish credibility still isn’t the right approach, IMO. I honestly believe they should be doing this on Public Figure page/account (which I know Dennis does), not a personal account. LinkedIn would be the exception to this, where yes, a personal profile is absolutely acceptable for brand development and authority.

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