Personal vs. Private Information in Social Networking

One of the most common questions I get asked by those in business for themselves has to do with personal information. We all have private lives. How much, if any, of that do we share online? Some folks using social media for business take this to the extreme…they either share nothing about themselves, keeping their interactions on tools such as Facebook all business, or they get down to the minutia of life, sharing their day to day schedules, medical problems, emotional state, and more.

I believe the most effective amount of information to share in social networking tools falls somewhere in the middle.  While we must be very clear that we are using these tools for BUSINESS, and everything we post can potentially be seen by our customers, kids, and mom, we must also remember that we are in the business of building relationships.  If you lean too far towards the extreme of being all business, you rob yourself of a powerful tool to help others connect with you: your personal life.

Now I’m not saying you have to (or should) share all the gory details.  But there may be parts of your life that would be interesting to your prospects, and will help them begin to know, like, and trust you, which is where the sales cycle must begin in social media.  I use myself as an example: I have a passion for food and wine.  I love to cook!  I often share my recipes, and I get more responses from people in my target market than I do from my personal friends!  I also share pictures of my kids and my dog.  These are all things that help people relate to me as a person, since these are common experiences within my target market.  And that makes them more comfortable when they do business with me.

There must, of course, be boundaries.  And that’s when we get into PRIVATE vs. PERSONAL.  Personal information are those pieces of your life that you choose to share, just like you would at an in-person networking event or a party.  PRIVATE information is the information that is just that…private.  You don’t share that kind of information with the world.  While the determination of what is personal and what is private is an individual one, you should keep in mind safety, as well as what people really shouldn’t (or don’t want to) know.  So for example, you should probably avoid sharing your own or your children’s daily schedules or where exactly you’ll be at any given point.  People really don’t want to know about that itchy rash that seems to be spreading.  (Eeewww!) You get the drift.

By applying some common sense, you can come up with your own plan for what is personal and what is private.  And then you can worry less about whether or not you’ve set up those privacy settings properly. (Although it’s still a good idea to know how to do that.  For a free Facebook privacy settings guidebook, click here.)

I’m interested to hear what you think.  How do you approach privacy in social networking?  Do you agree with my approach?  Have a completely different take?  Would love to hear your ideas in the comments below!

Photo Credit: antonpinchuk


Jennifer Fong

Serial Entrepreneur at Technology Strategist
Jennifer Fong helps direct sales companies, direct sales professionals, and other home-based business owners leverage the power of social media to grow their businesses. A former direct sales company CEO and serial entrepreneur, Jennifer is passionate about teaching direct sellers how to use social media tools to enhance their businesses. She helps business owners put the principles of social media to work in a profitable way, offering coaching and training to business owners.Her next course is Facebook for Direct Sellers.Learn how to put the power of Facebook to work for your business!Register now!Visit Jennifer’s Direct Sales & Social Media blog at




  1. Leslie Barile

    I totally agree Jennifer. When I first started with social media, I wasn’t sure which way to go, but it just made sense to me to sprinkle in a bit of each…personal & business. I also paid attention to my favorite social media peeps, and decided that they too kept it right down the middle. Anything too much, any one way can be boring to tears! Great article, thank you…very validating.

    • Heather Allard

      I totally agree with YOU. 🙂 And Jennifer, of course. I like to strike a balance between business & personal and find that most mom entrepreneurs do — I mean, c’mon, when you’re a mom entrepreneur, your life IS a happy mix of business and personal.
      Thanks for your comment!

  2. Ros

    Thank you for an insightful post and agree with your take on the what information one shares in social media. Your analogy between personal vs. private is a great way to explain the difference. The buzzword I see often on social media is “transparency” and being authentic, but do agree with you that one should set boundaries and use common sense with safety in mind.

  3. Nancy Webster

    When I am following someone for professional reasons, I find myself losing respect for them when they share the nitty gritty details of their personal trials and tribulations, unless the details are relevant to their main topic and used to educate. And I especially lose both respect and interest when they tell their personal stories to explain why they have fallen behind in their work etc. I can do all of those things myself…don’t need to share in the failures of my mentors! I think we all want to look up to people…find examples to follow. When I find myself thinking “Get over it” or ” Can we get down to business now?” then they have pretty much lost me…I consider myself to be a very compassionate person, so don’t think it is a lack of compassion…I think it is more about them valuing other peoples’ time. Why are we there? Why are we following them? If it isn’t to hear about their personal problems, and if that is not how they sold themselves to me..then going off topic for any length of time seems unfair…that is not, for instance, what I signed up for! BTW, I feel a little more receptive when they are sharing exceptionally good news ( a birth of a child, for instance.) Hope I am making sense!

  4. Michelle

    Jennifer, I couldn ‘t agree more. In addition to the business and personal extremes, I see folks posting quotes and nothing else of substance. I think it’s great to give some motivational advice, but I think it’s also important to “keep it real”. This is about social networking, not just a place to grab the “quote of the day”. Again, great information. Thank you!

  5. Barbara Tako

    Good article. The middle ground makes sense to me, and I like the idea of the photos that you mention, but what about the privacy/security of your children? That would be the part that would worry me a little.


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