The Oversharing Problem (And How to Avoid It)

First, a story: A coffee shop owner wakes up one morning to find hundreds of e-mails (mostly spam, of course) in his inbox. One in particular catches his eye — Regarding Your Recent Inquiry. He opens it. He reads it. “We regret to inform you…” blah, blah, blah.

The normal reaction, in this situation, would obviously be disappointment. Anger, maybe, followed-up with a little bit of venting through Facebook or Twitter. All of that would have been perfectly acceptable.

Except that his response was to post that letter not on his personal Facebook wall, but instead to share it with over 2,000 fans on his business page. “I’ve been a long-time customer. Can you believe this?” he wrote.

Oops. Almost immediately, fans of the page responded. They could believe it. Cue, flood of comments questioning why something like this would be on a Facebook business page: “I’m sorry, but how is this relevant?” “Sounds like it’s your fault, buddy.” “Umm…”

That question — how much can I share? — is one of the central dilemmas in managing social media channels for any business. Consumers, and particularly those that may at least be familiar, and possibly even friendly with the owner of a business, do want to hear about the business — it’s called social media for a reason. But at the same time, they don’t necessarily want to hear about a business owner’s personal problems, as cruel and unforgiving as that sounds.

Here’s how to determine if you’re oversharing, and how to avoid it.

Think, How is This Related to My Business?

Having personal anecdotes on a business page — especially for smaller businesses — isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can do a lot in the way of helping to humanize a brand.

But at the same time, those personal anecdotes should be somehow related to your business in some capacity. People don’t like business pages because they want to hear people whine (they have their own friends for that), and they certainly don’t like them to get political issues pushed onto them (unless, of course, that page is for political issues).

That’s why it’s so important for businesses to ensure that they are refocusing those issues back onto themselves. If they don’t fit, then it probably shouldn’t be shared.

Will They Care?

Another important thing to consider is the sort of audience that a business attracts. Are those consumers intimately involved with the business? For example, though fans of a small cafe’s business page may at least be familiar, and possibly even be friends with some of the waitstaff, those same fans might have no idea who ‘Joe’ is at a local online marketing company.

Unfortunately, a lot of businesses don’t take that into careful consideration, often turning to Facebook or Twitter to share links or information that they might find intriguing, but that their audience probably doesn’t. And the end-result is that a lot of their fans and followers might tune them out after a while.

Is This Appropriate? 

And finally, even if something might be relevant to a particular business — tax issues, sales, customers complaining — that also doesn’t mean that it will be appropriate to share through social media. Unfortunately, though social media is about just that — being social, open — it’s also a place where individuals and businesses need to carefully consider the sort of image that they are portraying through those channels. Is that artificial? Certainly, but social media should a reflection of all of the things that a business does well — i.e. build relationships — and not what it does poorly — i.e. pay taxes.

But Don’t Be Dull, Either

Still, that’s not to say that businesses can’t still be open through their social media channels. They don’t have to become closed, uninteresting shells of what they once were just because they can’t share everything.

They should share content that they think their users will find interesting, even if it might seem personal. If something funny occurs at a business that they think their users might find interest, sharing is good. Sharing is great, even.

It’s just important that they also be cautious. Businesses shouldn’t have their customers biting their lip at every tweet, share, or post.

Have you encountered any instances of people oversharing through social media?



Source: MSM DesignZ, Inc. is a Westchester NY Social Media company specializing in advertising, web and graphic design, and SEO.