Public personas are almost a thing of the past. In the age of golden cinema, glamorous actors floated across the silver screen. If there were no cameras, they were largely free to behave as they wished, so long as they were discreet.
Now, everyone literally has access to everyone. I can tweet at my favorite writers and celebrities, and depending on their level of followers and the cleverness or earnestness of my tweet, I might get a response back. (My trick is to have obscure heroes.)
Instagram just rolled out a feature where accounts can willingly choose to have their privacy invaded. Anyone, anyone at all, can ask any kind of question with the expectation that it will be answered.
We all technically have a choice how much we engage with our followers. Older professionals sometimes have the excuse of not being interested in social media; brilliant comedian Tig Notaro uses her twitter account to allow other comedians to tweet for her, get some name recognition, and try out their jokes.
Digital natives, who’ve grown up with some version of modern technology and social media, are expected to have active social media accounts. If they’re not posting every day, they could lose followers, which translates to business deals. This applies especially to creators and performers (such as writers or aspiring professional musicians), who are expected to bring a cultivated audience with them before ever signing a contract and working with a marketing team.
With this kind of everyday self-reporting, it’s almost necessary to determine what you’re going to share and what you’re not. Easier said than done, given transparency is of utmost importance during a time when false advertising and bullshit are easier to see through than the hole of a plastic straw.
Even more personally, a lot of us have strong-held beliefs that aren’t universally marketable, nor should they be. How much should you let them out to play on your social accounts?
Some accounts thrive using brutal honesty, like Adam J. Kurtz who puts a positive spin on the dark thoughts running through everyones’ minds. And he is mostly himself, beliefs and embarrassing selfies and all.
If you’re willing to put yourself out there, you also have to be willing to catch some flak and run the risk of alienating followers. Not everyone is your audience, but it still doesn’t feel great when someone leaves a dehumanizing comment on your post.
So where do you draw the line? Are you willing to give a pound of flesh for the sake of relevancy, or more importantly, your business?
If you’re a small business owner, you’re the face, personality, and backbone of your business. You may not be a celebrity that makes money from your smile, but with the blood, sweat, and tears required it’s sometimes difficult to determine where you end and your business starts. It’s a both/and. It’s a weird thing to consider, but how do you determine which of your values you and your business share? Which are inseparable? Being able to demarcate what you’re willing to share on social media as a business certainly makes it easier without running the risk of maintaining an antiseptic social account no one wants to follow.
If you’re a solopreneur, this decision is a little easier to make because it’s all about you, your interests, and values. You can curate your followers a little more finely. If you’re a small business, take a look around and see who’s sitting at the desks. What do they feel strongly about? What are the things you can agree on, and what are the things that are left unsaid for the sake of a continued working relationship? Maybe have a spontaneous office holiday dinner and see what pops up.
There really aren’t answers to these questions, rather something every individual and business needs to determine for themselves. It seems we rarely ask these questions because what’s lurking underneath is if we can’t talk about our values online, which is the lie: the social account, or that our convictions are really that important to us?