Personal vs. Private Information in Social Networking

padlockOne of the most common questions I get asked by those in direct sales has to do with personal information. We all have private lives. How much, if any, of that do we share? Some direct sellers 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 company, 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.

Jennifer with her kids and dog

Jennifer with her kids and dog

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

7 Responses to Personal vs. Private Information in Social Networking
  1. Kirk Kolhof
    October 21, 2011 | 4:40 pm

    Great post, Jen. I would have to say I am trying to be right in the middle of these two extremes. Its hard sometimes because you will find yourself leaning one way or the other. Its a balancing act. Thanks


  2. Jan Moss
    May 10, 2010 | 10:06 am

    Personally I like to see “behind the veneer” of my mentors, if it was only business info they shared then how would I know they were real people not just a marketing company ‘pretending’ to be a real person. Hence I disclose quite a bit of personal stuff, but I’m probably too liberal with it sometimes – but that’s me in real life too! lol

  3. Karen Clark
    September 22, 2009 | 2:54 pm

    I love your approach Jen (and I love how you share recipes and cooking adventures!). You’re a great example of someone who shares with no strings attached. I ask myself before posting if what I am saying will serve, teach or inspire. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like what I want to say will, and I post it anyway LOL but I’m always aware of safety and privacy issues.

    Someone asked me once, why would anyone want to know about my boring life? So I asked well tell me what you did this week. There were SO many things I would have loved to have heard about, a restaurant she went to, a class she took, a party she held… Her life may not feel extraordinary to her, but it would have helped me get to know her better AND maybe give me some ideas I could use in my own life.

    As for safety, I use the same common sense I would in ‘real life’ – it’s our JOB as direct sellers to meet new people and network and build trust and rapport. I’m actually probably more likely to meet a weirdo who could harm me in “real life” at the grocery store vs. an online connection, and the local guy could actually follow me home. So I try and keep things in perspective, be cautious but not closed.

  4. Linda Stacy
    September 22, 2009 | 10:46 am

    I’m a pretty private person in general and it’s even more difficult for me to share personal information online. Instead, I try to be personable.

    I’m particularly protective of information about my family. It’s one thing to divulge personal info about myself, but I always feel like my family members’ “stories” belongs to them; I shouldn’t be sharing their info where it will be “out there” forever.

  5. Sally Bryan
    September 22, 2009 | 10:42 am

    Thanks for sharing this information, Jennifer. I like the examples you give of personal vs private information. I’m reminded that what we share on FB is really only a snapshot of what’s going on in our world at the present time. We need to make sure it’s a picture that we want people to remember in a positive light!

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