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5 Questions to Ask Before Getting Personal on Social Media

Excited with an idea for an online business that targets moms, a client reached out to me to talk through the details.

As I listened to her outline the business, I knew social media would be a great tool for her.

Given the type of business and being a mom herself, I suggested she share photos of outings and activities with her daughters to build her social media following.

She listened and then voiced concern for the safety of her children, “is it absolutely necessary that I post pictures of them?”.

At some point in our businesses we’ve all faced this dilemma whether it be a posting a photo of our kids, sharing a personal story, reporting the state of our business, or giving details about our personal lives.

How much should we be sharing with the customers and fans of our businesses? What’s too much and what’s not enough?

Here are five questions to help you decide if getting personal on social media is the right decision for you, your family and business.

Does this content directly relate to my business?

Consider celebrity-owned businesses The Honest Company (Jessica Alba) and Draper James (Reese Witherspoon). As one would expect, these women don’t manage the Instagram accounts of their businesses, but their presence is there. Witherspoon is regularly pictured modeling her products while photos of Alba are posted occasionally.

In both feeds, they only appear in posts that directly relate to their businesses. They’re shown using a product, promoting a collaboration or attending a PR event. They are never seen sharing personal thoughts or photos of their private lives. These types of posts are reserved for their personal accounts.

What’s the general lesson can we learn from this approach?

If a social media account is created to be a business account, it should be used as such.

Social media centers around sharing, making it easy to lose sight of the purpose of an account. It’s important that we check ourselves and remember the importance of maintaining the professionalism of our businesses.

If you need to cut back on the personal content to make your accounts more professional, remember, you can create separate personal accounts for sharing with friends.

A big gray area still remains. Sharing a personal story and showing parts of your private life can create a connection with customers. Customers are more likely to engage and trust us and our businesses when they see us as human, relatable and approachable.

We need to consider a few more questions.

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Does this post align with my brand?

If you sell custom jewelry and you’re posting photos of your vacation in Hawaii, in general, vacation photos aren’t going to do much to support your brand.

If the brand imagery of your jewelry company is beaches, palm trees, and a laid-back lifestyle, photos of you living the lifestyle you’re selling could be a good opportunity to show a behind-the-scenes look at your life.

Don’t confuse customers by sharing content that’s inconsistent with your brand. Businesses need a clear message that is consistent in every form of communication.

Joy Cho of Oh Joy! is a graphic designer that frequently shares photos of her children. Her brand is bright, colorful, fun and attracts moms. Even though her children aren’t shown using her products, posts of them dancing, playing and smiling align with her happy brand.

Does this post add value?

As Bill Gates said back in 1996, “content is king.” Twenty years later, it still is.

It’s not enough though to be producing any kind of content. The content needs to be viewed as valuable by your followers.

Another way to ask this question is, “why are people following me?”

Are you entertaining, educating, reporting or inspiring? Are people following your business because they value your political opinions? Or do they simply want tips and motivation to stick to their daily workout routine?

Pay attention to the engagement and responses you get with different types of posts to clue you in on which content followers find most valuable.

Keep in my that every social media post doesn’t have to be all about your products and services. In fact, if it did, that would be a bad idea. Work to find a balance between promoting your products and building your brand through valuable content.

Am I respecting the privacy of the other people pictured in this post?

There isn’t a single post you must share for your business to survive or grow. That photo of your friends getting drinks together or a friend’s personal story shared anonymously, don’t have to get posted.

Always consider and be respectful of the other people connected to what you’re sharing.

Does this post fit within my boundaries?

Before you’re in a situation of being uncertain about the appropriateness of a post, outline the boundaries you are comfortable with.

Decide if you’re going to share photos of your kids, spouse, friends and home. Are you going to give a behind-the-scenes look at your business, including both the struggles and wins? Are your weekend activities going to make an appearance? Are you going to share your political, religious and social opinions? Are you even going to post photos of yourself?

There’s no one right way to use social media for your business. You can be successful being very personal or not at all. Do what works for your business while staying within the boundaries you have set.

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