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
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