• Meghan Ward
  • [NETWORKING FOR INTROVERTS] How Much Should You Share on Social Media Networks?
[NETWORKING FOR INTROVERTS] How Much Should You Share on Social Media Networks?
Written by
Meghan Ward
June 2013
Written by
Meghan Ward
June 2013

The leak of the NSA’s Prism program has everyone thinking about online privacy. In addition to wondering whether your emails to your grandmother are being monitored by the government, you need to think about how much is safe to share on social media networks. The New York Times rule (“Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want published on the front page of The New York Times.”) can apply to social media: Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want on the front page of The New York Times. But let’s say you mostly post pictures of your dog, your kids, and your family vacations. Should you have a separate Facebook profile for close friends and a business page for fans? Should you post pictures of your family on your blog? What about Twitter? Should you share personal information with your followers? Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules. But here are a few things to consider:



People want to know the real you, not just the professional you. However, that doesn’t mean you have to share photos of your children with them. You can give them glimpses into your life without giving out too much personal information. Remember the literary agent who was attacked by an author she had rejected? That happened because she was using FourSquare to let the world know where she was at any given time, which happened to be on her way to her daughter’s school that day. Be smart about what you share and avoid sharing your location.



The advantage of having separate personal and professional Facebook pages is that with a professional page you can have more than 5000 “likes." You can also protect your privacy by keeping your friends and "fans" separate. You can friend only people you know and trust on your personal page, where you'll post photos of your family and vacations, while keeping the posts to your professional page less personal. The disadvantage of this strategy is that you divide your audience. Not all of your friends will “like” your professional page, so when you have something important to share, you’ll have to double post it, which may annoy those friends who subscribe to both. (My feeling is that if it’s important (like a book release), go ahead and double post. And promote those posts to make sure everyone sees them. Your friends will understand. Also, profiles now have a “subscriber” option for people who want to share posts with more than 5000 fans without creating a professional page.) Another disadvantage of having separate pages is that people--whether they are fans or friends--want to hear about your personal life. I have one author friend who friends all her fans and shares photos of her children with them. That can create a deeper bond with your readers, who will cheer you on when your son graduates from high school. It also increases the number of comments, shares, and likes you'll get on each post, by which your “social media influence” is measured. It’s not something I feel comfortable with myself, but for some people, it's the right decision.



When I see a Twitter account that is riddled with links, I don't follow it. I want to follow a human, not a computer, so I look for personal posts sprinkled throughout a feed. But again, that doesn’t mean you have to divulge every personal detail. You can share how many words you wrote today, what book you’re reading, or what reading you’ll be attending this month, without getting overly personal.



Whether you choose to share personal posts on your blog is entirely up to you. Some really wonderful bloggers write and post pictures about their families and dogs and vacations. Others (like me) prefer to kept their private lives mostly private, including a personal post every now and then. This isn't a matter of privacy so much as blog strategy. Your blog needs a focus, and you have to decide whether that focus is you or some other topic. For more info about blog strategy, I'll be teaching Blogging for Beginners this August at the San Francisco Writers' Grotto.


What about you? Do you prefer to keep your professional and private identities separate or integrated on social media networks? How much personal information do you feel comfortable sharing? Has the NSA leak changed the way you share personal information online? 



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  • Joanne C. Hillhouse

    Hi Meghan

    Seems we both blogged on this issue earlier this year http://novelspaces.blogspot.com/2013/03/guest-spot-joanne-hillhouse.html To answer your questions, I prefer to keep things separate...though there is inevitable overlap (especially when you're juggling a regular fb account which is how I initially connected with other readers and writers and an author page which is about a year old); and I don't feel comfortable sharing certain things (I blogged going back a couple of years as part of a writing programme I did but for about a year timed with the release of my book Oh Gad! I've blogged about me and my writing pursuits and my culture...sometimes there's more of an overshare than I'd like but I've tried to make sure that the latter doesn't happen too much as I'm not comfortable with it)...though I've given in on one share recently as it just reached the tipping point between just posting it already or having to explain each time a request came from students reading my book that I just don't share that information. Aaargh, ideally I'd just like to write and forget all this other stuff...but it is what it is.