The public vs. private balancing act on social media

I recently attended a CPRS workshop where the presenter, a man with many hats (including husband/dad, Prince George councilor, tech & innovation ambassador, UNBC staffer), talked about his experiences with social media. He’s involved in many different fields and arenas, but uses social media with what he calls the “Wide Open” approach.

20131124publicvsprivateIt got me thinking about my approach to social media and the balance between public and private. Similarly, I wear many “hats” – social media specialist/consultant, tourism blogger, government health staffer… some of these roles put me (and my chosen SM profiles) more out in the public sphere, and some of these roles dictate that I need to be careful about what I say.

So how do you determine what goes public and what doesn’t? It really comes down to how you want your public “brand” (and yes, if you blog/tweet/FB/video etc publicly, you have a “brand”) to be portrayed to someone who doesn’t know you.

I recently saw an article on Mashable about balancing personal and professional lives on Twitter. It has some really good tips for how to approach the public/private dichotomy of Twitter (e.g. “accept that Twitter is public” and “avoid sensitive topics”).

Here is my own list of tips and things to consider about the overlap of public and private on social media:

    1. Use your Facebook privacy settings. A lot of people don’t know how to set this up properly, but it’s definitely worth learning. I have several groups categorized on my Facebook (e.g. Friends, Acquaintances, Family, etc.), so not everything I pot goes out public. Some is for my friends list, some is for “friends but not acquaintances.” Still, though, I realize there could potentially be flaws in the system, and I never post anything (even to my close friends list) that would be damaging (to myself or others) if it went public.
    2. Never post anything negative/accusatory/passive aggressive/ranty. When you get bad customer services, or someone upsets you, it’s so easy to automatically turn to social media and tweet/post something negative about whoever wronged you. I strongly advise against this. Not only do you bring other people’s days down with you, but you risk turning people “off” you and sending them to the nearest unfollow button. You don’t want people associating you with negativity do you?
    3. Use some common sense. Are there things that should be in a “no fly zone” due to your day-to-day job or situation? Have respect for that. Also respect the people around you. Maybe your wife/husband or mom/dad doesn’t want you posting about them. Listen to that. And don’t create conversations around extremely sensitive issues as it may create an online argument (unless your brand is to be a bit of a sh*t disturber!).
    4. Set your own rules. There are not many rights and wrongs in social media. Take some time to find your own voice, determine what you want people to know and what’s best left private. I know some people who will never post a picture of their child online; others nearly spam us with their kid pics. Some people won’t talk about work; some use their personal accounts to only talk about their industry. What works for you?
    5. Don’t take yourself so seriously. This is in the Mashable article I linked to above, but it’s also something I always say when presenting to groups or helping people with their SM strategies. Sure, it’s public, but it’s only social media. If you mess up, apologize, crack a joke and move on. Someone else will be in the spotlight tomorrow. It’s fun, people! And learning is half of that fun.

Do you have any other tips?

4 thoughts on “The public vs. private balancing act on social media

  1. Andrea

    Lots of good advice here! I also have a few Facebook groups that allow me to control what I share. I also really agree with #2. I hate it when I see people post rants on Facebook business pages.

  2. Renee

    Good post Jess! I’m definitely still mastering the art of defining what should and shouldn’t be on social media. I do use privacy settings a lot for some photo albums, etc. Practicing Facebook discretion is lifelong learning.

    1. Jessica Post author

      Thanks Renee. That’s very true! It doesn’t help that they change things every once in awhile, does it? :) That should probably be on my list above too – keep on top of how to do things so you can manage them properly!


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