It's been less than two weeks since the great Facebook purge of 2010, and I'm still getting at least five random friend requests a day.
I see you're a fan of x (company #2); me, too! Let's connect.
Um, no thank you. If you're a fan, just become a fan, especially if we have no natural point of intersection or previous connection.
I've previously talked about this issue in terms of privacy (I'm under no illusion that I have any on the internet) or boundaries (being selective about whom you connect with). But it's really an issue of branding.
When you're building a business--especially as a solopreneur--social media platforms naturally become a hodgepodge of personal and professional. Even if you have a website, a LinkedIn account or a stand-alone professional blog, it's pretty much impossible--and probably not desirable--to remove all traces of your professional self from social networking sites. After all your network--even if its just friends and family--can be a powerful tool for generating leads and promoting your business.
That's why I've adopted a hybrid approach to branding. You'll see it in this blog, on my Facebook page, on my Twitter account, and in the way I interact and connect with people. Personality sells. And I can't separate Laura the person from Laura the entrepreneur. The two are too intertwined.
And while I believe wholeheartedly in this approach, I'm having growing pains. The more visible I become and the more people I connect with, the more I WANT some separation between my personal and professional lives; the more murky the lines between friendship and business become; the more wary I become of endorsing people or places or products, lest they mistakenly become associated with my professional brand.
In other words, my brand, like my business, has some growing up to do. I'm no longer managing one business, but two. I have a (very small) staff. I'm expanding my professional offerings and venturing into the big scary world of speaking engagements and writing opportunities. All of which I want and welcome.
But the brand has become bigger than me--an extension of me, yes; but only me--no. And my online presence has to reflect that. So, it may mean turning down a few Facebook friend requests I would've accepted a year ago and directing those people to my fan page. It may mean a little less Twitter chatter about wine and more about my latest exciting project. And more conversations here about the intersection of entrepreneurship, personality and brand.
Bring on adolescence.