Storytelling and authenticity is nothing new in online business and marketing. Being your true self is your most powerful branding tactic – no way around that. But just how open and honest should you be when it comes to sharing your story? I always struggle with this question as I'm not about broadcasting my business in public and all over social media – never have been. Pat Flynn and Jon Lee Dumas are notorious for their transparency, even going so far as to post monthly income statements. You might argue that when you’re making the kind of bank they do (6+ figures and more each month) it’s easy to share—perhaps even inspirational to your audience. But it might also be off-putting to some, since talking about money is often seen as vulgar and braggadocious. In this case, though, it works to attract the exact audience they are after. Others will find other mentors, and that is, after all, the point of marketing.
How to Be Transparent
Transparency comes in various forms. Sharing personal or common experiences of struggles with alcoholism, depression, cancer and other health concerns is common online nowadays. Stories of marriage and relationship triumphs (and tragedies) are often told too. Even spats between competing businesses aren’t off limits for some marketers. All is fair in love, war, & business to most. That doesn’t mean, though, that you have to be frank and honest about all areas of your life and business. With a little forethought and planning, you can keep certain aspects of your story private. I like that!
Check Your Social Media Profiles
Here’s where a lot of business owners wobble, especially when it comes to Facebook. You have your personal profile, to which you invite friends and family, and your business page, where you talk, well, business (and that's expected there). But there will inevitably be some overlap. Colleagues and peers will slowly filter into your personal timeline, and you into theirs. Pretty soon, your business people are hearing all about your latest bout with the flu and that snarky thing your mamma-in-law said yesterday. Too much? Maybe. Not everyone needs to know all your business, nor do they care to. I've had a client tell me point blank that she didn't want to be on Facebook no matter what. She didn't want to know about every individual, private move people made or what they had for dinner. I had to respect that. When it comes to your social media sharing, it’s important to pay close attention to not only what you say, but who you’re saying it to. Filters were created for a dang reason – use them folks. Don't be afraid. Using privacy settings, contact lists, and even limiting who you “friend” can help maintain your privacy while still being transparent about your business offerings. For folks that I “friended” when Facebook first launched to the public I placed on a specific list where they don't see promotional items, I speak on because they are not business focused or I don't want them in certain conversations. I created groups and it's been working so far.
Remember, Say It Forget It. Write It Regret It. The Internet is Forever.
While privacy settings can help, a better way to keep your personal business away from prying eyes is to simply not post it at all. Think of every blog post, Tweet, Facebook status update and Instagram pic as a billboard. If you wouldn’t post it on the side of the highway for all who pass to read it, don’t put it online either. The chance that it will “leak” (despite your best efforts) is great, and once it’s out there, you will not ever get it back. So think twice about those nasty replies, intimate details, and other confidential information. You just never know who might be reading, and they will affect your brand image.
The bottom line? Know your audience and know yourself. If you’re not comfortable sharing certain aspects of your life and business, chances are they won’t be comfortable hearing about it, either. It’s okay to maintain some privacy, even in this transparent world of online marketing.