Balancing the personal and professional on social media

The things you share on Facebook just might come back to haunt you

When it comes to real estate, the nature of our relationships with clients can be complex to define. We’re completing a business transaction, which is professional by nature. At the same time, we’re assisting with a major, emotional decision, and that’s very, very personal.

And when it comes to interacting via social media, it can be hard to find the balance between staying professional and also sharing some of your personal side to create strong, more engaging connections.

It’s a fine line to balance, and sometimes mixing the personal with the professional can be disastrous. A social media faux pas might not be as bad as Olivia Pope and President Fitzgerald Grant getting together on my favorite show to binge-watch, but inappropriate tweets, Facebook posts and photos have nonetheless ended careers. If you’re going to let your clients have access to your social media (and let’s face it, you probably should), you must be careful of oversharing, which can turn people off professionally.

As difficult as it is to find, keeping that personal-professional balance is critical to maintaining relationships and building a satisfied client base. So here are some tips to help you get there:

Mom’s always right

For me and many of my colleagues, our personal and professional lives collide on social media. Just as often as we’re posting pictures of our children’s soccer games and family’s Thanksgiving dinner, I see agents using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find new leads, promote listings and network with colleagues.

6 ways empowered agents embrace disruption to drive success
Using technology to generate leads and win listings READ MORE

Most of the things I see shared on social media are pretty innocuous and, therefore, appropriate for all audiences. But every now and then, a bikini selfie or a St. Patrick’s Day bar-hopping photo makes its way onto a Facebook timeline when it probably shouldn’t. You have the ability to restrict who sees what on your social media accounts for a reason, so use it.

Some sage advice I received on my way to college was to never be photographed doing something I wouldn’t want my mother to see. If you’re about to post something on social media, think about what your mother would say. If she wouldn’t “like” it, maybe you should think again before posting.

I read a book a few years ago titled “Social Media is a Cocktail Party”; the book notes that unless you know someone very well, your interactions with this person at a cocktail party would be relatively formal. The same should be true for your social media interactions with your clients. Keep them light, keep them semiformal, and don’t get too personal. For example, wishing your client a happy birthday or commenting on their adorable family photo or cute dog over Facebook is a totally appropriate way to interact without crossing any lines.

Take a page from Chipotle’s playbook

One of my favorite lunch spots is Chipotle. Its food is fresh and tasty, and its customer service is stellar. Chipotle uses Salesforce to maintain a network of every customer service inquiry. It does this to create positive, lasting relationships with customers. While Chipotle may see these customers once or twice a week, in real estate, the turnover rate is much slower (people aren’t searching for new houses every day). That’s why building and managing positive relationships with customers is key to ensuring that the next time they’re looking for an agent, they come back to you.

To add a personal touch to professional relationships, I use a tool called Newsle, which notifies me when a contact is mentioned in an article online or on social media. You can use this both personally (through Facebook) and professionally (through LinkedIn) to stay on top of your friends’ and clients’ successes and congratulate them when it’s appropriate. Think of it like dating: Nobody likes it when you come on too strong, but nobody likes being ignored, either. Knowing your audience and building a relationship slowly over time is perfect. Newsle is a good way to do that and show people you care, and that you want to stay in touch for reasons that aren’t always business-related. Not so ironically, that often leads to more business.

The perfect blend

When it comes to the kitchen, the old saying is that you’re either a cook or a baker. With baking, recipes are really precise. You have to ensure the proper measurements and add them in the correct order or your baked goods won’t turn out well. With cooking, there’s a lot more wiggle room. You can throw in the spices that you like and give each dish your own signature flare.

When it comes to real estate, finding the balance between personal and professional is a lot like cooking. There are key ingredients in any relationship between agent and client that you must include. Make those connections on Facebook, but leave out the questionable photos.

Marnie Blanco heads up industry relations for dotloop.