OMG, Keep That To Yourself: What Not To Share On Social Media

One post can damage your brand. Think twice about before sharing these six things on social media for everyone to see.

Shocked man looking at smartphone, Can't believe what is posted on social media

If you’ve been using social networking to connect with your audience and consumers for any length of time, I’m sure you’ve heard all kinds of social media advice like:

  • Show your personality and let your freak flag fly.
  • Be real, authentic, and honest and give people a peek behind the scenes.
  • Have an opinion! Don’t be afraid to be controversial.
  • Be vulnerable and share your struggles.
  • Get personal and don’t make it all about business.

It’s all good advice, especially if you’re a freelancer building a personal brand.

After all, social media is about being social. It’s about building relationships, having conversations, and sharing everything from funny stories, photos, and anecdotes to tips, tricks, and wisdom.

Just as you wouldn’t walk into a party and talk business the entire time, you shouldn’t make your social media persona all about business and do nothing but market yourself the entire time.

Blending Personal And Professional Content

Twitter was one of the first social networking platforms I signed up for. But I struggled to gain any real traction for my design business until one day I posted about getting up early and making my son chocolate chip pancakes every day at 6:00 am.

Suddenly, lots of people were commenting and sharing their favorite type of pancakes, what types of pancakes their kids liked, and even what time they got up in the morning. That post earned me new followers and later that week, I noticed some of the people who commented on my pancake post were now sharing my business content.

The big Ah-Ha for was that those people didn’t care about my business-related content until they first got to know me and made a connection with me on a personal level. To build a brand with social media, you have to help people get to know you.

Something magical happens with right mix of personal and professional content…

  • Personal content helps people feel connected to you. It helps your audience get to know you, find things in common with you, and see that you’re just like them. And when that happens, they’ll care more about what you have to say professionally.
  • Professional content introduces ideas, demonstrates expertise, and builds authority. It helps your audience understand how you can support them, adds value to your interactions, and invites people to come along for the ride.

These days, when I think about my social media persona, my content is about 70% business and 30% personal — except for Instagram. Right now Instagram is 100% personal. It’s all vacations, outdoors, family, play, and food. That may change in the future, but for now, I love that I have one “just for fun” social platform just like I have a “just for fun” website.

Sharing Too Much On Social Media

With the “always-on” nature of social media, there’s a temptation to always be sharing. And if you’re someone who thrives on feedback, validation, and recognition, seeing those likes, comments, retweets, and shares can be addicting. It’s dangerous because the need to always post and get quick feedback can drive you to cross a line with what you’re sharing and how much you’re sharing.

Yes, you need to be real, honest, and authentic.

Yes, it’s good to be vulnerable and share the true story of your highlight reel.

Yes, you should give people a glimpse into your personal life.

No, you don’t need to share everything.

It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to build a brand, yet it only takes one mistake to undo your hard work and tank your brand equity. Unfortunately, the most common branding mistakes are those made on social media when a business owner, entrepreneur, or freelancer is too honest and too real and shares too much.

If I had a nickel for every time my jaw dropped to the floor as I thought, “I can’t believe they posted that” or “I can’t believe they said that,” I’d be lounging on a beach and reading a good book while someone brought me iced teas and snacks all day!

Everything doesn’t need to be public, and not all dirty laundry needs to be aired, especially when it doesn’t align with your brand persona or it makes you look bad!

This week my jaw dropped once more and it’s the perfect excuse to share six things to think twice about before sharing them with your social networks:

1. Mean Or Snarky Sarcasm

If you’ve got a snarky, dry, sarcastic personality, remember that tone, voice inflections, and body language can’t be communicated through written social media posts. So snarky, dry, sarcastic comments are often interpreted as you just being mean.

Mean and snarky people may be fun to watch for a while (like a train wreck you can’t look away from) but most people don’t want to spend time around or do business with mean people. Plus, there is already so much hate and negativity in the world, that the tolerance level for snark, back-handed comments, and mean behavior is waning.

2. Too Much Information (TMI)

While you need to get personal and help people get to know the person behind your brand or business, they don’t need to know everything about you, what you’re up to, or what you’re thinking about.

There is such a thing as sharing too much information (TMI).

  • We don’t need to know when you’re drunk, or that even though you have a big morning meeting, you’re going to have another giant beer.
  • We don’t need a play-by-play of your quest to take someone home from the bar or the details of your sex life or lack thereof.
  • We don’t need 25 posts (in one day) about how your kid or dog is just the cutest or 14 blurry photos of flowers from your evening walk.
  • We don’t need you to live-tweet some random thing no one else is part of.
  • We also don’t need to know about your bowel movements, what you ate for every meal, what’s on your grocery list, that you’re tweeting from the toilet, or that you can’t pay your electricity bill.

All of these things are things I’ve seen people post about publicly and it’s not a good look, especially when you consider that your clients, customers, partners, and prospective clients, customers, and partners are seeing everything you’re posting.

3. Honesty Without A Filter

Truthfulness, authenticity, and integrity are vital when building relationships through social media. With that said, there is such a thing as being too honest, too candid, and too open. Do you remember the saying, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all?” It most definitely applies here.

Do not use honesty as an excuse for bad behavior, treating someone poorly, or talking negatively about someone else.

  • If you disagree with a post someone else made or have a different opinion, join the conversation and share your perspective with respect.
  • If you see someone make an error, do something wrong, or mess up, you don’t need to point it out publicly for everyone to see. Consider sending them a private note instead.
  • If you’ve got drama in your life, think twice before airing it publicly. Sharing your dirty laundry on social media can make the drama worse, hurt feelings, harm relationships, and make you look bad.

You must take the people in your social networks into account.

If you’re integrating social media with your website or using it to demonstrate expertise, build authority, generate leads, and attract clients, it’s not a good idea to badmouth clients, shame inquiry form submissions, and complain about your projects. It’s also not a good idea to post about not making enough money to pay your bills because it will make potential clients hesitant to trust you with their project.

4. Accusations Without Solid Evidence

When you’re at home, alone, behind your computer, it’s easy to be brave and make public assumptions and accusations about others. It doesn’t take many smarts or much thought to be a keyboard warrior and post things that defame others, rile people up, and stir the pot.

But causing drama and making claims that could cause serious damage to someone’s business isn’t a good look. It’s always better to have that discussion directly with the person you’re targeting and not on a public platform.

If you’re going to be brave enough to post an accusation, you better be brave enough to remain in the conversation, legitimately defend it, and discuss it intelligently with others. You can’t just toss it out here and run.

5. Crassness And Profanity

I get it. You may have a potty mouth. I have a potty mouth. But saying a “bad word” or letting one slip out here and there is very different than deliberately choosing to use and write a “bad word.”

Somehow, it holds more weight and seriousness when you purposefully use it in a social media post. More people than you think will wonder:

  • Did you do it for shock value?
  • Can you not communicate more intelligently?
  • Come on… Was that really necessary?
  • Are you desperately trying to get attention?
  • Do you just want to be like GaryVee?
  • Maybe I shouldn’t do business with this person after all?

Using profanity and crass language in your social media posts will turn some people off, which is fine because you could argue that those people aren’t your people. It’s okay to not be everyone’s cup of tea as long as you also accept that it may limit your opportunities, reduce referrals, and pool of prospective clients because you are not in fact, Gary Vee.

6. Struggles That Hurt Credibility

Pulling back the curtain of your highlight reel to share your challenges and struggles can make you more real and relatable. When done right, it can show your audience that you’re just like them — you experienced the same struggles they’re experiencing now, you found a way through it, and now you can help them to the same.

Vulnerability done right provides inspiration, help, hope, and glimpses of what’s possible. It’s about showing that you don’t have all of the answers or sharing a challenge and either how you are solving it now or how you already solved it.

Here are a few examples of when being vulnerable is a great idea:

  • Sharing that you’re stuck on a surface-level problem and need a bit of help, a suggestion, a recommendation, some insights, or a nudge in the right direction.
  • Sharing a challenge and for those who are in the same boat, what you’re doing to remedy the situation.
  • Telling the story of a challenge faced, how you overcame it, what things are like now — sharing the before and after to inspire others.

Vulnerability done wrong makes people cringe. It comes off as complaining and creates a “poor me” vibe. It can also damage your credibility, erode trust, and hurt your brand and business.

  • Sharing an emotional struggle in a negative way or complaining about it without sharing anything you’re doing to overcome the struggle or asking for help.
  • Broadcasting an inability to do or successfully deliver the work you want people in your social networks to hire you for.
  • Posting things that damage your credibility and make people not trust you.

For example, if you’re trying to use social media to sell a membership program, being vulnerable about the fact that no one is signing up and you’re worried about being able to pay your bills isn’t a good idea.

Similarly, If you’re building a brand around being the most sought-after expert in your niche, it’s not smart to get vulnerable about your current level of Impostor Syndrome, lack of experience in your new niche, or inability to land enough clients.

Those actions would be incongruent with your brand message.

Skip That “Oh No They Didn’t!” Post

You determine how you will be perceived and what you will be known for by what you share and post, how you phrase your posts, and how you make people feel.

While everything doesn’t need to be made public and posted online, you don’t have to keep everything to yourself and struggle alone. If you need help, reach out directly to family, friends, peers, a mastermind group, or a trusted community. If you don’t get the support you need, ask for help via social media in a positive way.

You want your social media posts to be jaw-dropping in a good way, not a bad way. Help people laugh, think, learn, smile, and connect. Don’t be the train wreck people can’t look away from.

Before you publish that next questionable post, ask:

  • Does this make me look like a jerk? Could this hurt someone’s feelings?
  • Am I being vulnerable and real in a positive way or negative way?
  • Does this reflect how I want to be perceived and what I want to be known for?
  • Does this align with my brand and what I stand for?
  • Will this inspire someone or tear them down?
  • Does this make me look unstable, questionable, or out of control?
  • Will this build my credibility and build respect for my brand or will it make people question me?

Who knows, it may just be the difference between gaining or losing a follower, a connection, a subscriber, a partner, a customer, or a client.