Monday, April 3, 2017

Social Media TMI—Finding Balance Between Professional & Personal Online

by Edie Melson 

For an author, building an online presence that’s both professional and personable can be a bit of a tightrope walk. After all, we’ve all cringed at some of the intimate details shared in ill-considered tweets and Facebook posts. We want to connect with our readers as honestly and as genuinely as possible. But we also want to present ourselves as the professionals we are. I’ve had a lot of writers ask for guidance on where to draw that line.

The good news is that there are some guidelines you can follows. The bad news is, there are exceptions to almost every rule. Each author relates differently in person and to be authentic, we must carry that personal bent into our online presence.

Things to Share
There are some things we all enjoy sharing, whether or not we’re directly involved. That’s where this list fits. It’s not an exhaustive list, but I’m including enough suggestions so you can get a strong idea of what’s good to share. These things shouldn’t make up the majority of your social media updates or blog posts, but sprinkling them in can make you more approachable and even fun.
  • An engagement or a wedding. This can be yours, or a close family member. You don’t want to take up space about a second cousin once removed, but engagement pictures are always fun to see.
  • New baby or grandbaby. Again, we all like to see this occasionally. New life is a reason to celebrate. But with this type of update, like the previous one, a little bit goes a long way. If you want to post an album of photos, that’s fine, but don’t share photo after photo after photo in your news feed.
  • Pet photos and stories. People love their pets. More than that, they love people who love pets. This type of a personal update can give you some good visibility through social media.
  • Exciting news that’s publishing related. This might be a book cover reveal, signing a contract with a publisher and/or agent, even winning a contest.
  • A recipe. Recipes are popular on social media. But if you’re not writing a cookbook, or incorporating recipes in your platform, share sparingly.
  • Prayer requests. I purposely included this at the end of the list because you must be very careful here. First, you need to be aware that people will share what you share, so make sure it’s not confidential and you don’t mind if everyone knows about it. Second, you’re opening a door. Once you share a prayer request, your friends and followers will feel free to share with you. You could be opening a floodgate. That’s not always a bad thing, but it’s a decision you need to make before you share.

Things NOT to Share
  • I hate to even have to say it, but anything that might trigger a gross-out response should always be off limits. This includes everything from descriptions of medical procedures, accidents, trips to the personal facilities and spiders. Yep, spiders. There are a lot of people out there who will freak out at the picture of a leggy arachnid, so post at your own risk.
  • Anything negative about a specific person or company. This doesn’t include rants about generalities, such as taxes. But I’ve NEVER seen an instance where calling someone out publicly ended well for either party.
  • Any update that lets people know your home is vacant. This isn’t something that will offend your followers, but is a danger for you personally. Posting vacation pictures, while you’re still away, is an open invitation to burglars.
  • Any update that shows you checking in someplace. If you want to endorse a place, share why you enjoyed your experience. But for all our sakes, disable location settings that pop up with a map of where you are in your social media feeds.

Bottom Line
Navigating online socially is a lot like attending a large party. All the same rules apply.
  • Don’t hog the conversation.
  • Don’t talk about yourself too much.
  • Don’t share things that make others uncomfortable.
  • Don’t gossip.
  • Don’t bash someone’s reputation.

Trust me, you do not want to be the person everyone at the party avoids. Being personable and sharing bits of your personal life online can enhance your overall image. Staying upbeat, encouraging and positive whenever possible will make you someone people want to know, online and off.

Social Media TMI: Finding the Balance Between Professional & Personal - @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

#socialmedia is a lot like attending a party - don't be THAT person everyone avoids @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)


  1. Great info. It's always good for me to re-evaluate what I'm doing with Social Media. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Great word, Edie. Thank you. Social media is the biggest platform to showcase who we are. And for Christ-followers, we strive to conduct our lives based on the example of Jesus. Social media isn't excluded just because Christ came before the age of computers. :-) I’m not in control of the newsfeed or social media accounts for others. Yet, I am in control of me. My online behavior, actions, and reactions. It's important.

    1. Karen, great insight! Thanks for sharing, Blessings, E

  3. As a missionary who has, for nearly 20 years, had to share prayer requests multiple times a month as part of my job, I'm confused by this: "Once you share a prayer request, your friends and followers will feel free to share with you." Can you explain?

    1. Wendy, I didn't mean anything derogatory about sharing prayer requests. That's why I listed it under the things TO share. For some, praying for others is their heart's call, for others, it can lead to an overwhelming situation where their feed is nothing but prayer requests when their business purpose is something else. I love the prayer requests shared on my timeline and in private messages. Others choose to keep their social media on a different focus. In addition, I'm sure you've seen that requests can be shared as prayer needs when the purpose is to also share information. I didn't mean to offend, only to state the cause and effect of sharing certain types of updates. Blessings, E

  4. No offense taken at all, I'm not sure why you would think that. I'm merely curious as to why sharing prayer points has a potentially negative element to you (and I understand you're writing about sharing personal thing on a professional SM platform).

  5. Edie, Good advice. Most of these caveats and suggestions are simply common sense maneuvers, but it's amazing how often they slip by. Thanks for sharing these reminders.