We all know the stories of people getting fired for social media mistakes, like teachers posting rants about students on Facebook – but many small business owners don’t realize that their own personal presence online can have a detrimental effect on their business, especially when they are trying to sell.
If you put your business up for sale, then the very first thing any potential buyer is going to do after signing the non-disclosure documents is Google the business and then probably Google you.
What are they going to find? Let’s look at three scenarios – the good, the bad and the ugly.
If you are doing everything right (don’t worry if you aren’t, most small business owners are horrible at managing their online presence – the good news is it’s fixable), then a cursory Google search of your business will turn up a complete and well-presented website with links to the social media accounts you have for your business. A complete website means that a visit to your site should reflect what a visit to your actual business would entail – so pictures, menus, price lists, what you typically have in inventory, your physical address, your business phone number, your business email address, your hours of operation, a map or directions (or both) – you get the idea. Your business-related social media accounts should be extremely professional and deal ONLY with the aspects of your business, not your personal life.
A cursory search for you as the owner should turn up a professional profile on a site like Linkedin, and perhaps a Facebook page (although the page itself if used for anything other than strictly business purposes should be set to private).
This good version of an online presence means that you as an owner are professional in your business dealings and are capable of bringing your business into the digital age successfully. You are using the online presence of your business to help your business grow – and this will impress buyers.
If you are like most small business owners and think you don’t need an online presence to be successful, then you are in the “bad” category.
Like it or not, the digital age is here to stay – so if that cursory Google search for your business brings up nothing more than a poorly designed and never maintained (basically useless) website, an infrequently updated Facebook page or nothing more than a smattering of reviews for your business on websites like Yelp – buyers will not be impressed.
In fact, leaving the online fate of your business in the hands of a few unhappy reviewers can be very detrimental to your attempt to sell. If all a buyer sees are negative reviews you never addressed, they will likely wonder what other aspects of your business you have neglected.
You get put in this category if you have entwined your personal life with your business life, as these types of entanglements rarely help a business or an attempt to sell a business.
If that cursory search for you and your business turns up a rant-laden personal blog (or we’ve even seen rant-laden business blogs) or a personal (and public) Facebook account laced with posts and shares that reflect your personal, political and/or spiritual beliefs – this is not good. If you are very politically active, if you have strong religious beliefs, if you don’t particularly like someone in the community – you are obviously entitled to feel that way and share those views with the people in your personal life. What you absolutely, positively SHOULDN’T do is blast those thoughts and feelings anywhere near your business. You also should not have any pictures of yourself that you wouldn’t show every customer or potential business buyer the moment they walk in the door anywhere online where just anyone can see them.
If a potential buyer (or customer for that matter) finds nothing online other than an angry rant-blog and unflattering pictures of you after too many drinks at the neighbor’s BBQ, they are going to wonder if that lack of professionalism extends into your business as well.
The moral of the story? Just like in real life, you should keep your online personal life and your online business presence separate. Make sure your business presence online is professional and complete – then make all of your personal accounts private. This will help immensely with that all-important first impression from buyers while your business is on the market, and will also help with impressing potential customers too.
Are you a business owner who is looking to sell, but never considered the online presence of yourself or your business? Did you recently Google yourself or your business and you would like some advice on how to improve that all-important first impression? Ask us! Please feel free to leave any comments or questions here and we will be happy to help.
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