Social Networking: Personal or Business

It’s official then, researchers at the University of Michigan have found that the more someone posts on social networking sites the more self-involved they are likely to be.

The research, published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour said specifically about young adult college students that “those who scored higher in certain types of narcissism posted more often on Twitter”, but for middle aged adults in the general population “narcissists posted more frequent status updates on Facebook”.

I am not sure about you, but I think there are plenty of narcissists on Twitter of whatever age you care to focus on. In fact there does not seem to be any age limit on self absorption on any of the social media platforms.

Way back in the 1970s Gore Vidal had some things to say about this that, looking back now, seem unbelievably prescient.

On narcissism: “A narcissist is someone better looking than you are”. Which makes you want to ask some more searching questions about the folk undertaking the research at the University of Michigan.

Another quote could have been written about Facebook, just yesterday: “Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies”. Perhaps a bit harsh on most, but certainly true of some.

This blog will be posted on Twitter, so where does that leave me? Or indeed anyone who simply wants to promote their business? Can one really mix ‘business’ with ‘social’?

my lunch

My Lunch Today – mmm

Well we do mix business with social and that is a one of the problematic dichotomies of using social media as a business promotional platform. In fact you see problems caused by this time and time again on Twitter accounts, originally intended to promote the business, being used to tweet the details of someone’s breakfast, or some other pointless personal detail.

But Twitter can be used legitimately as a business promotion medium and that is okay as long as it is kept business and professional. A self absorbed personal showoff is a bore, but I think we can all accept it is OK for anyone to be proud of their business and keen to promote it. In that instance they are proud of more than just themselves, they are proud of their colleagues too and what they have achieved as a team. Whatever good stuff comes back from the tweet, Facebook post, or LinkedIn forum contribution will go to the corporate good.

Contrary to the way it is sometimes portrayed in the media there is also a refreshing honesty when someone is telling you something just because they want you to buy something from them. There is no subterfuge, no hidden agenda: “I am telling you this because I want you to buy from my business so it will make more money – so I will make more money”. What looks like narcissism in an individual boast actually just looks like good marketing when translated into a business context.

It can be viewed as unfortunate that the marketing messages are mixed with the personal on something like Twitter, but often that is the power of social media: that a powerful marketing message can find itself dropped into a list of nonsense and that the recipient gets the message almost unprepared. Even better if that message is forwarded/re-tweeted by a friend, or trusted authority.

I think the University of Michigan team are right that we might want to ask one or two questions about ourselves on the personal side when using social media. However, self absorption and narcissism about one’s own business (let’s call it pride) is OK. It’s marketing, it’s sales, it’s what businesses do in the modern capitalist world if they want to survive and thrive.

Even though personal and business messages are mixed up on Facebook and Twitter, it is better to keep your own personal and business channels separate – as no-one wants to buy from a bighead.

Hopefully that all sounds ok, now can I sell you a website?