How do I resolve the conundrum of promoting my new venture via social media while I still need my full-time job?

My venture, built over the past year-plus, is at the point of needing a serious social media (and hopefully, regular media) push to get going. And to add to that, there are some things coming up in the next few months that could really be game-changing if I were to announce them on social media.

The problem is… my boss and co-workers (very small company) will see this. There’s just no way to keep this from happening that I can figure out. I’ve avoided connecting with any of them on any social media, but I constantly get word of their stuff by way of second-level connections, so I can only assume the same in reverse.

And it probably goes without saying, but I can’t ditch my job until my venture gets to a certain level.

Has anyone else here dealt with this quandary? To make it worse, my venture and my job are in a similar space. So it’s not like I’m at an accounting firm while selling hand-painted mugs on Etsy.

Thanks for your thoughts and answers!

  • Use an alias. A pseudonym. I don’t want to be the public face of my company anyway, so the name associated with everything to do with it is an alias. Just make sure that your legal name is on anything legal.

    • This is good in theory, but in our online world, a company’s investors, supporters, vendors, customers, etc. want to see who’s behind a company. And if it’s a small venture, the story usually centers around the founder — how did he/she start it, why, and so on. So, if you’re going to create an alias, then that fake person needs to have a fake identity on LinkedIn (for example). But this is really hard to do. The fake LinkedIn person should have a face (profiles without a face are less trusted), as well as an extensive history. But more significant… this LinkedIn “person” needs to have connections and recommendations; otherwise, no one is going to see this “person” as credible. And it’s pretty much impossible to get connections and recommendations for a fake person.

      And after all this, if you could somehow pull it off, you just run the risk of being seen as shady and untrustworthy. If a blogger finds out your CEO is fake, that will just invite criticism and a social media firestorm. So, really, I just don’t see how this is workable at all — particularly since the original poster was specifically talking about expanding reach into social media and “real” media.

      The best suggestion I can think of is trying to find a social-media person (intern, whatever) to do as much as possible under their identity. It won’t totally shield you from being exposed, but it will reduce the likelihood. If all the publicity is coming from another identity, it’s far less likely it will hit the connections of your boss and co-workers, and therefore their attention.

      Alternately, you could take on a person to do this, grant him/her a glorified c-suite position for his/her efforts… perhaps the person could even be a in a minority-equity position. But the bottom line is, you have a person for all “communications” who is not you. Then, at some point in the future, if you are in a position to step back into the forefront, that’s always an option.

  • If you are in even somewhat similar space and already have press, you’re going to get found eventually. Just a matter of time.

    There was an article about my startup in a high-profile magazine earlier this year. Thought my coworkers were oblivious, and saw no reason to cause trouble by telling them (I would never spend time on my startup during office hours, so I didn’t see why it was necessary to talk about it. Plus, the press by no means would mean we’d succeed). So, just quit my day job and my boss said, “Yeah, we already knew about your startup. We’re happy for you, though.”

    😛 Awkward.

    Fortunately, we’re not competitors, or else it probably wouldn’t have gone so nicely for me.

  • Honesty is the best policy all around. Assuming you don’t have a non-compete, and that your venture is not going to be in direct competition with your employer or take it’s customers…then disclose it. A few points:

    1. Your day work should be un-affected and what you do with your free time is your decision.

    2. You don’t want to bite the hand that feeds you. Your boss and coworkers could turn into advocates and cheer leaders for you. You never know who they know.

    3. You may need some flexibility if you have meetings come up during the day hours. Honesty may buy you some grace here if your boss doesn’t think you’re out interviewing elsewhere.

    Good luck and provide an update on how it all goes.

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