How public do you need to be about your private stuff?

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Whether you have started using social media in your marketing or not, there’s not a day that goes past without some celeb or footballer getting in trouble from one of their tweets or Facebook updates.

It seems that when it’s just us and our iPhones, it’s easy to forget that the messages we send out on Twitter or Facebook can reach anyone, anywhere in the world.  A drunken Friday night tweet seems funny at the time … but what if one of your clients sees it whilst sitting on their sofa at home?

Ignoring emails from a customer who is complaining about one of your products, whilst glibly updating your Facebook status with a “Don’t you just hate it when someone moans all the time and is not happy with what they get” is just going to set you up for a fall.

We’ve all seen this kind of stuff somewhere on the internet – or even in the headlines of the tabloids.

But does this mean you should be afraid of sharing too much private stuff on your public profiles?

If you just stick to business all the time, the “social” side of social media ignores you.  They turn their back on you and report you for spamming.

So, how public do you need to be about your private stuff to make social media work for your business?

There are 3 categories that I think most of your thoughts, feelings and ideas fit in to:

1. Public: this all the stuff that is about your business, your events, your products.  This includes launches of new programmes or workshops, appointments of new staff, winning new projects or new articles on your blog.  It’s all the stuff you really want potential clients reading about you and your business.

It tends to be the positive news you want to share, although every cloud usually has a silver lining so don’t be afraid of sharing bad news if you can find a way to add value from it.  Avoid the doom and gloom, but sometimes a honest bit of commentary makes you a “real” business.

2.  Public Private: the stuff you what you want to share with the world about you as a person.  This includes your personal thoughts about the latest industry developments, conferences or events you go to and what you had for lunch.

Yes, that’s right – what you had for lunch!

To make social marketing work, you have to be social.  And if you think about what you talk about when having “small talk” with someone you’ve just met, the topics usually focus on the weather (well, for Brits!), where you’re off on your hols this summer and what drink or food you are currently consuming.  So when people who just don’t get Twitter and wonder why anyone is interested in whether you had a bacon sandwich or a bowl of soup today, it’s because you are doing “small talk”.

Do it all day and every day, and it is very boring.  But make your public profiles a little private – share a “secret” or a personal fact about yourself – and you are able to show you are a human being and a very nice person to be doing business with!

3.  Private: stuff your customers really don’t need to know about you. This includes your kids’ names, your car registration number plate, your home number and the name of your bank.  Some of you, I know, do share stuff like your kids’ names.  And that’s OK as long as you consider this to be Public Private stuff and you don’t mind the whole world knowing this.

Announcing when you plan to go away on holiday is a common crime, especially if you work from home.  Why not just tell the local thief network when your house if going to be vacant?!

You want to avoid sharing anything that may cause clients to leave you in droves.  Remember the comment Gerald Ratner made about his jewellery in 1991?  It caused the company to go from a £112 million profit to a a £122 million loss a year later!  And that was all before the share-ability of social media.

I have a little rule when it comes to sharing stuff:  If it ends up on the front page of the Sun or the Times, I wouldn’t be worried my mum were to see it.

You can be as public or as private as you want to be on social media – the choice is yours.  As much as people moan and complain about Facebook and the default setting of “share everything with everyone”, you can tighten up your privacy settings as tight as you like.  You don’t have to be found if you don’t want to.

But just be prepared if what you share does get found.

If you want it kept private, then avoid those drunken Friday tweets and early morning Facebook rants!

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