How to Have a Personal Social Media Account Without Hurting Your Business

Share your unabashed self online with the people who love you. Don't assume that includes everybody you're doing business with.

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By John Boitnott

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A business owner works hard to build a strong, positive online reputation. Yet, as we've seen, it can be all too easy to make headlines for things we post online. Even if those posts are on personal social media accounts, all it takes is one media outlet to make it into a headline and a business could suffer reputation damage.

It is possible to have both a professional reputation and a personal account that doesn't cause harm to it. Yes. You just have to choose whether you're going to express your opinions and interests freely, but very privately, or you want to carefully moderate your words and be more public. Here are a few options for having a personal social media account if you run a business.

Don't post it.

The safest option is to keep your personal accounts as moderate and professional as possible. This means if you take a trip with your family and you want to share it with your relatives and former classmates, you'll need to be aware that the public could see that information. As your company grows, you could see one of those photos shared across social media with your business name mentioned in it, even when you didn't intend for your vacation to be linked to your business. If you've done something that is somehow controversial, it could even lead to boycotts and permanent reputation damage.

Related: 6 Keys to a Positive Online Presence and Reputation

Keep it undercover.

One of the best ways to carve out a private space for yourself is to lock down all of your personal accounts. You can set your Facebook page to friends only and make the account hidden in search results, both on Facebook and on public search engines. Set your Tweets to protected and make your main photo one that your business associates and customers won't recognize. You should also realize this plan isn't 100 percent foolproof. Unfortunately, even if you take the utmost care, someone in your small social circle could choose to share your information publicly if it's juicy enough.

Assign a personal social media moderator.

You may have a social media manager for your business, but this doesn't extend to your personal accounts. Or you may not have a social media manager at all. Consider asking someone to moderate your personal posts, whether this is your business's social media person or someone new. You could even ask a trusted friend, relative or business associate to review any of your posts before they go live and offer advice on whether something could be damaging or not. If you're concerned about your career, you may even consider setting a social media strategy that could help you build a strong online brand personally, which will eventually lead to connections that will help you professionally.

Related: Why Online Reputation Management Is Like Brushing Your Teeth

Use an alias.

If you feel restrictions are too stifling, consider setting up your social media profiles under a name that can't be easily found by those who know you through your business. This could be a nickname you had in college, a maiden name or a completely made-up name that you share only with friends. The key is to ensure that if someone tries to track you down through these sites, they won't be able to find you. For small or newer business owners, this plan could easily work for years, since only casual users will be searching for your name on various social media sites.

Related: 10 Steps to Building an Impeccable Professional Reputation

It is possible to have an active personal social media presence. By putting controls in place and making an effort to monitor what you say, you can interact with friends and relatives without putting your business in jeopardy.

John Boitnott

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Journalist, Digital Media Consultant and Investor

John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.

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