How Much is Too Much: Navigating Social Sharing for Business
Part of telling your business story – and encouraging customers and potential customers to know, like, and trust you – is to share personal things that your audience can identify with. As is true in building any relationship, with social media for business it is important to let people in. You want them to see your business (and you) as someone who “gets” them and understands what they want and need.
However, you can share too much. Even with the increased desire on behalf of consumers to get to know companies they do business with, there’s still a line between effective sharing from a revenue perspective (it translates into more customers and greater retention) and the type of sharing that requires a public relations professional to smooth over the damage.
Why Share Anything at All?
If there’s a big risk of offending or turning off your audience, why share anything at all? You should share with your audience for a number of reasons. First, getting them to know, like, and trust you is essential to winning their business. Secondly, people are more apt to share things they identify with or find meaning in. The more you share, the more your audience will respond with likes and shares. Those interactions help you reach your audience organically and indicate to the search engines that your content is worthwhile.
Factors in Sharing
The key to successful sharing to increase business depends on your audience and your type of business. Things that dictate the level of sharing you should do, and the topics you cover, include:
The average age of your ideal customer and other key demographics of your buyer
What you sell and the industry you work in
Whether you are an independent entrepreneur/consultant or part of a larger enterprise
Whether you own the company or not
The tone of the company’s marketing communications
Your end goal in the communications
While there isn’t an exact formula in deciding if something is too much, the better you understand your audience, the easier it is to grasp the appropriateness of content.
Things You Don’t Want to Share
As mentioned earlier, what to share depends on your audience, but the following things are general no-no’s for business as they tend to break relationships down instead of building them up. However, some of these topics may be integral to your business. For instance, a political consultant should share political commentary as her audience would expect that and desire it. A grocery store owner, on the other hand, may find it alienates his customers.
Politics, religion and others topics that divide
If you’ve ever defriended someone on Facebook because of their political rants, then you know why this is a divisive subject. Unless your business calls for it, your audience wants it, or your post has something to do directly with your business (like a proposed bill that will affect your industry), skip these types of posts.
Rants and whines
Your business account should be about helping people and building people up. You are a resource and a business. If your stream is filled with rants and whines, your audience will lose interest quickly.
This advice seems counter intuitive because I’m suggesting getting personal and then telling you not to get into your personal issues. The key difference here is the term “issues.” Share things about your personal life. However, don’t share old-school Howard Stern style, unless you’re trying to be the “shock jock” of your industry.
Instead, share personal challenges, hopes, dreams, even setbacks but do so in a helpful way. Look at everything you share through the lens of your audience. How is this post helping you to connect and assist them? For instance, if you recently had a health scare, there’s nothing wrong with sharing that, especially if you’re able to find a purpose behind the share by telling people why it’s important to get regular exams.
However, when you’re a business owner every social media post is an audition to see if someone wants to hire/do business with you. Keep this in mind with every post. Don’t share anything that will make people question your ability to do the job at hand. If they think your personal life is a mess, they will want to stay far, far away.
Things to Share
So what should you share?
Share content that is helpful to your audience, or content you found helpful and why, inspirational content, content that provides (positive) insights into your life, and content that helps forge relationships and is not divisive. Examples of this type of content include:
“Moms and apple pie.” “Moms and apple pie” topics are largely regarded as loved by everyone. These include pictures of sunsets, kittens, puppies; videos of babies laughing or you goofing around waiting in line (everyone has to wait in line, right?); and posts on your favorite books (who can argue with the benefits of reading?).
Trivialities of Life. Marketer Kim Garst is known for doing this on Facebook. She asks questions like, “Night Owl or Early Riser?” They are so basic, but people really open up with them. She answers these questions herself and has built a very loyal tribe by using them.
Images. When in doubt use images from your life such as your view from your business, a trip you’ve taken, somewhere you’d like to go, your cat, your favorite recipe, or any number of things that interest you. Even selfies can be effective when they’re not all focused on your appearance.
A Final Word About Social Sharing
The key to successful sharing is envisioning your ideal customer and asking yourself if that person would find value in what you’re posting. Next, decide whether the post topic and the wording will bring you closer to that customer or push them away. Never shy away from sharing details about your life, but do so to build rapport and serve as a resource. In business even when you’re sharing things about you, it must always, ultimately, be about (and for) your audience.
Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog.
She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.