How much personal information should you share with customers and the world? That question has become more important than ever with the proliferation of social media sites and a tendency to overshare when it comes to things that traditionally were kept private.
If you are willing to give customers a peek into your “real life” it can help to build relationships with them. The trick is figuring out how much to tell and how much to keep private. Telling too much can make you appear unprofessional and damage your reputation. And too much personal information will turn off people who are following you or reading your blog to learn about your expertise.
One way to manage this is to have separate business and personal accounts. That can be difficult to manage (How do you make sure that business contacts are in the business account and family and friends are in the personal account?) but keeping things separate can be a good choice.
Even in a business account, though, there may be times when you want to share a bit of personal information. The few times I have posted things about my pets have gotten a great response from readers. (People love animals!)
Here are a few tips to help you figure out where to draw the line. Think about these things before you update your Facebook status or send that Tweet.
Keep the ratio of personal information to business information low. The occasional Tweet or blog post about something personal is fine, but most of your communications should be business related.
Use the personal as a story to illustrate a lesson. Telling a personal anecdote can lead in to sharing a tip or technique useful to your readers. For example, I recently started off a blog post on backing up your blog by revealing that I had accidentally deleted my husband’s blog while clearing out some files. A little embarrassing, but it pointed out that no one is immune to making dumb mistakes and how important it is to have backups.
Be careful about sharing someone else’s life. Your family or friends may be embarrassed by something you post.
That goes double for photos. Russell Brand probably regrets posting a photo of (now ex-)wife Katy Perry without makeup to his Twitter page.
Will sharing this possibly put you or your family at risk? Be cautious about disclosing travel plans, giving details about your children, tagging posts with your exact location or talking about other things that may make you or your family targets of thieves, stalkers or worse.
Think about the sum total of the personal data you publish. One little Facebook status update may not reveal much, but when aggregated with other updates, Tweets, blog posts, etc. someone who is paying attention may be able to piece together a lot of the details of your life. And someone who is that interested in your life is probably not someone you want to know the details. Each individual item does not exist in a vacuum.
Let personal posts age a bit before publishing. Social media sites have created an atmosphere were people press “send” without thinking first. When you write something about your private life, put it aside for a while before making it public. You may feel differently about sharing after thinking it over.
Actively look for small personal items to share. These should be things that help to shape your image as you wish to be seen. Although the occasional self-deprecating post about a screw-up is fine, you want to focus on the positive.
Do not publish anything that you would not want to read on the front page of the newspaper. Remember that the things you post on the Internet can be accessed by anyone–even if you think they are private. And they will be around forever–even deleting them will not remove every trace.
By letting your readers know a little about you as a person they get to know and like you. Because people prefer to do business with those they know and like, it can be an effective way to attract and retain customers. For the best results, limit your sharing to bits about your life that will build positive relationships with clients and enhance your reputation. And you may want to skip posting that photo of you winning the beer chugging contest in Cancun.