How Personal is “Personal Information”?

It’s a practice I see again and again by direct sellers.  A personal presence on social media tools for friends and family, and a separate presence that is “strictly business.”  Yet I don’t believe that this is the most effective and efficient use of time.

Part of the beauty of direct sales is the relationship we build with our clients.  Unlike a nameless, faceless big box store, our clients get to know, like, and trust us.  As a result, we can make specific recommendations for our clients based on our intimate knowledge of the products we have to offer, and our understanding of the client’s needs.  It’s what has made direct sales such a powerful sales channel.  People like to feel important.  We have the opportunity to give that gift.

But that understanding is not a one-way street.  It’s not enough for us to know our clients.  They also need to know something about us.  They need to understand HOW we understand them.  For example, if I, as a direct seller, am a mom to 3 kids (which I am), you are much more likely to believe my recommendations if you are also a mom.  You know that I understand where you’re coming from.

But when we set up business social media presences that strip the personal out, we deprive our clients of a comfort level that can come with our recommendations.  Yes, it’s great to give value-add articles that meet a need for our clients.  But if we don’t also give them the opportunity to connect with us on another level, everybody misses out on a deeper relationship.

But then we get to the question: what about privacy?  There are parts of me that I want to keep out of business.  What do I do about that?

The answer is understanding the difference between PERSONAL information, and PRIVATE information.

Personal information is the facts we share about ourselves that help people connect with us at a deeper level.  For example, I share pictures and stories about my kids and my dog, along with my love for cooking. (Check out my Facebook profile for a tip I gave about cookie baking this week.)  My parents depend on me to post pictures of the kids, and check Facebook regularly for them.  Yes, it helps business people get to know me better.  But it also feeds me and the people I love at a personal level.

Private information is that information that we don’t want to whole world to know.  So while I share some personal information, I don’t share the names of my kids, their ages, medical conditions, or other data that I don’t think is appropriate.  So while I would share that information with my close friends and family, I don’t post it to my social networks.  It’s private.

It’s possible to connect with people on a personal level, while still using those same social networking profiles for business.  It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  And we remain true to those principles of relationship-building that are so important to us in direct sales when we find that middle ground.

What is your opinion?  How do you find that balance?  Would love to read your thoughts in the comments!

Photo Credit: Nathan O’Nions

6 Responses to How Personal is “Personal Information”?
  1. Carol Firth
    February 27, 2011 | 11:58 am

    Hi Jennifer thank you for highlighting this. Some people, when setting up a page for their business suddenly switch off their “relationship button” and forget why they are on a social networking site in the first place. Its important, as you point out, that the whole point of being on a site like Facebook is to build relationships. You cant do that simply by posting endless special offers, photographs of a product (with no explanation either!). Keep it real!

  2. Margo
    July 12, 2010 | 5:28 pm

    I TOTALLY agree. One big reason I am a successful direct seller is because I am a *person* – not a brand. Can my customers buy products like mine at the mall? Yes. But they buy from me because we have a relationship, a personal connection. Being in direct sales almost always means you’re doing business with people you know personally, which means you’re probably doing business with your Facebook friends. Facebook can be a fun an easy way to help build those relationships by allowing you and your customer base to get to know each other-like friends!

    Thanks so much for bringing up this valuable point!

  3. Debbie
    July 12, 2010 | 1:27 pm

    I totally agree with you! Social Media is about relationships. It’s finding a balance where you can be yourself, and share your business specials, without being overwhelming in either direction.

    A lot of this is to also be careful of the stupid applications that clog up the feed, like games, definations, doing 10 polls in a row. And negative attitudes are also a turn off.

    Great article!


  4. Cheri Tambini
    July 12, 2010 | 1:07 pm

    Jennifer, this is great information. I like how you are able to segway this to your webpage/blog. Will you do an article on how this is done please?

  5. Brett Duncan
    July 12, 2010 | 12:49 pm

    I’m with you here. I believe one of the strengths of social media is that you can share who you are PERSONALLY with more people. Rarely does a social media discussion go by that someone doesn’t come to the conclusion that they need two Facebook profiles: one for friends and family, and one for business.

    First, using social media ONLY for business will backfire on you. It won’t work. The magic is in mixing the professional with a real person. Because we all want to do business with real people.

    Second, just be you on one profile. Stop segmenting yourself into so many personas.


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