It’s a tough game.
You want to connect with your readers… but you also want to look professional.
You want to be authentic… but you don’t want to overshare and make everyone feel awkward.
So how can you be real about yourself and your personality without venturing into TMI-land?
As an online business owner, your story and your personality are so valuable to your readers. They want to know who you are and feel a connection with you—in fact, it’s a vital ingredient to making a sale online.
So whether you’ve striven hard to keep your business separate from your personal life (to the point where your business website feels dry and impersonal)…
Or you feel like you’re sharing too many food and kid photos on Instagram (it happens)…
This article is for you.
Here are 5 guidelines to help you figure out how much of your personal life to share with your audience:
Rule #1: It’s about your reader, not you
This will sound weird, but hear me out:
Your website and social accounts might have your face on them, but that doesn’t mean they’re about you.
…Because they’re actually about your reader. Always. Any personal info you share through your business exists to either help them or develop a relationship with your ideal clients.
This is the first and most important principle, because once you embrace it, it makes everything else clear.
Should you share those photos of your family? Maybe. Will it help your reader feel a deeper connection to you? Or will it make them feel awkward?
Should you talk about your political preferences? Maybe. Do you only want to work with people who have a certain political preference? In other words, will it help you create a connection with your ideal client, or alienate them for no good reason?
If you keep your ideal reader at the front of your mind, it becomes much easier to know what you should be talking about and how you should be talking about it.
Rule #2: Share lessons you’ve learned, not lessons you haven’t processed yet
You just found $100 on the sidewalk. Cool! Do you post this on Instagram?
You could. But what’s the lesson in it?
Posting a photo saying “Look what I found!” is boring.
But if you can take a moment to reflect, that post could mean a whole lot more. Maybe you’ve been going through some hard times, and you want to share that miracles happen. Or you decide to pay it forward by donating the $100 to a cause you admire, and you encourage your readers to consider how they can turn their own gifts (tangible or intangible) into tools for good.
Ask yourself: What’s the lesson? What’s the value you can deliver in this story?
Or let’s take it bigger. Let’s say you’re going through a divorce.
On the one hand, your blog could include regular updates on the messy details.
Or, you could wait until you understand the lessons in the process, and share the relevant ones with your readers. (If you so choose.)
We’re trained to use the internet as our personal venting grounds. But as a business owner, you’re here first and foremost to deliver value. So process in the private sphere, and then you’ll have the power to choose what to share—in a way that will be empowering to your readers.
Rule #3: Tell your own story
Stories are extremely important to creating content and copy that hits home with our people. But of course, a lot of stories involve other people.
Stories about others—especially if they paint someone in a negative light or deal with sensitive information—can not only hurt that person, but can also make your audience feel uncomfortable. Instead, a good rule of thumb is to keep details about other people vague, unless they’ve given express permission for you to share.
Remember: You can absolutely tell a great story without focusing on specific people! No one cares what their name was, if they were your roommate or a neighbor, or if they were your aunt or just a woman you knew. There’s rarely a good reason to throw people under the bus with personal details. Focus on your story, and let others tell their own.
Rule #4: Determine your boundaries
How do you feel about sharing your kids’ names?
How about your partner’s?
Or where you live?
Or your political beliefs, religion, alma mater, how much you curse…
It’s all up to you, but don’t wait until you’re writing to decide what you are and aren’t okay with. Determine NOW what you’re actually comfortable sharing. That’s a recipe for getting stuck, procrastinating, and ultimately making poor decisions.
Set your boundaries now so you don’t need to re-make the decision every time. You’ll know what’s safe to say.
Rule #5: Don’t be afraid to share yourself
The previous principles were all about what not to share. But that’s only so that we can leave the door open to all the wonderful things that you CAN share.
The bottom line is your people want to know you. If you’re a service provider or the face of your business, YOU are a key factor in your readers’ purchase decision. And they can’t make that decision without knowing you!
So here’s my encouragement: Share yourself.
>> Share your personality. What makes you weird is what makes you stand out.
>> Share the personal stories that your readers can connect to. Hearing your story might be an important ingredient in their own transformation.
>> Share your life. Because that’s what creates real, human-to-human connection.
Let principles #1-4 draw the line in the sand. Then, use the rest of the sandbox to play.