How can you use the social media and still maintain your privacy? This is a question we hear over and over from our clients. They tell us they do not want others to know what they like to do in their off time. They do not want others to know about their personal lives. At the same time, they’d like to explore using the social media. We’d like to make one thing very clear. The social media is innately social. If you do not wish to reveal anything about yourself, you can do so on the social media, but that negates the point and power of the social media.

Let’s begin by looking at the purpose of social media. Whether you are using Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or blogging, people expect to learn something about you the person. They do not want to learn your most intimate details, but they do want to know something about you. Imagine you are at a business cocktail party and meeting someone for the first time. You begin by asking what the person does. From that you learn about their business interests. After you talk with them for a few minutes, you might learn that they enjoy kayaking or woodworking. Being an avid woodworker yourself, you feel instantly connected to this person. Now you’re not just talking about your work, but you are also talking about lots of things. The more you can find in common with a person, the longer you stay with them and the more enjoyable the conversation becomes.

The same phenomenon happens on the social networks. Where people make mistakes is they either share nothing personal, not even an up to day photo, or they share too much too quickly. These same mistakes could kill a conversation face-to-face. So, how do you go public and stay private? Here are some tips to help you understand what to share and how much.

• No one wants to know where you had breakfast. Whether you are tweeting or updating your Facebook status, keep the information relevant. Don’t add to the noise by posting something no one wants to know.

• When filling out your profile, you can put both personal information and business information. If you are using the Facebook page as a business tool, you’ll want to keep your focus business-related. When responding to the question, what are your favorite hobbies, you can list woodworking or surfing the web. You do not have to say something that you might not want your clients to read. You can skip this question if you wish. Bear in mind, however, that if you don’t put anything on your profile that tells us about you, the person, we will quickly lose interest in you.

• Post diverse information. We don’t want to always hear what you are doing professionally. Occasionally, particularly if you are posting on the weekends, you can say something like, “My nine-year-old just scored his first soccer goal.” Wow! Now I know you have a kid who plays soccer. Again, however, if you don’t want colleagues at work to know what you do on the weekend, don’t post it!

• Post photos or videos that do not show you “dancing on the table.” Of course, if your friends catch you dancing on the table and then post that photo, beware; your clients might see it. But, they’ll see it whether or not you happen to be on Facebook or not. What’s the moral of that story? Don’t dance on the table! There are people with cell phone cameras lurking everywhere. Instead post photos of you and perhaps of your friends and family that show you playing a sport, enjoying a quiet book, visiting an historical site.

• Post a business photo on LinkedIn. You can post a more casual photo on Twitter and Facebook. You don’t have to post a photo of you on vacation. Instead post something that says something about you without revealing too much. My photo on Facebook is me laughing, something I do a lot. Barb’s photo on Facebook is a headshot of her looking relaxed and ready to go. Change out our photos regularly to show different aspects of yourself. If you are a pet lover, post a photo of you with your favorite pet. Be sure to include yourself in the shot. If you don’t want your clients to see you at an event holding a cocktail, don’t post that photo!

You’ll find many more tips in The New Handshake. Just remember privacy is your decision. You can limit the people who can view your Facebook page. Some people like to limit viewing to just family and friends. The know-like-trust factor happens when people feel connected to you the person. If you’re too private, you lose the power of this aspect of the social networks.

Author's Bio: 

Joan Curtis is the CEO for Total Communications Coach She has done leadership training and consulting for over 20 years. Her new book, Managing Sticky Situations at Work http://www.managingstickysituationsatwork, came out in June 2009. In it she creates a new model of communication called the Say It Just Right Model. Her new book, The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media co-authored with Barb Giamanco will be out in July 2010. Check out the blog,