While being real with your audience is certainly important to maintain rapport, the decision of how much of your private life to send out to the world can be a difficult choice to make. On one hand, your audience may grow as people recognize that they have a larger chance of connecting with you on a more personal level. Being able to better relate to someone has a funny way of making the content they put out more appealing. The downsides to sharing too much of your personal life can have an adverse effect for both you and the people around you.
Be Mindful of Your Location Status Updates
For example, if you frequently film out of your home or office, and the location of your place of filming becomes public (either by appearing in the background or outing it yourself), fans may find their way to your front door out of curiosity. I’ve worked on shows before where fans would frequently sit outside the office awaiting the arrival or departure of the host. Guests, especially if they are celebrities themselves, may be put off by the insecurity created by unknown and unexpected visitors. The same can be said for your favorite hangouts in your home town. While it might be trendy to use Foursquare or Gowalla at the drop of a hat, doing so in a place that you frequent often when you don’t expect people to follow you there is just asking for trouble. While you may be comfortable with the level of information you send out there, your guests may not be.
I had a conversation in a green room with a very socially active tech pundit about how they handle the separation between their public and private lives. At the time, he said that one thing he absolutely will not do is post location updates anywhere inside his home state. By doing so, he is able to better control when and where public appearances will be. When he traveled down to Austin, TX for the big SXSW conference, he started using Foursquare everywhere he was as there was an expectation with his following for him to do so. As soon as he hopped on the plane to return home, the updates stopped and his location became a matter of privacy once again.
In this tabloid-heavy world, people tend to be very interested in learning about someone’s personal life above and beyond the content you purposely send out. Finding out about relationships, digging in to troubling parts of your past (ex employees, girlfriends, boyfriends, and employers) is tempting, especially when the boundaries seem so vacant during your typical social interactions online. It’s usually best to set clear boundaries and remind people that there is a line you will and won’t discuss in online chats and social groups. By setting these expectations, you are better able to justify banning someone or otherwise refusing to answer the questions.
Bottom line: some things aren’t the business of the public. You have ultimate choice of where this boundary needs to be, and as a professional podcaster, you aren’t burdened by the same obligations to share a politician or CEO would be.
Be Up Front About What You Plan to Share, Give People a Choice
Last, make sure the people in your life are all right with being a part of your public life. Spouses, family, and friends will appreciate the ability to choose their own level of involvement in your public world, and letting them come around to it at their own pace can save a relationship. Ultimately, the more comfortable they are, the better they can respond when some publicity does go their way. The same goes with employees, but at a more basic level.
Employees who work on a professional Internet broadcast generally expect (and should be given the expectation) that their work may be in the public eye. Occasionally appearing on camera or being asked a question during the show is to be expected, as long as that expectation is set during the initial interview.
In the video below, Chris Pirillo sets a great example of how to work within someone’s expectations while still maintaining a set of boundaries for the community. The community got what they wanted, a better insight into Chris’ personal life, while his girlfriend maintained a comfortable level of anonymity.
Rumors and controversy spread faster than anything else in the world of social media. If your community finds out something about you, your staff, your business, or your family that you’d rather not have out there, the best thing to do is to take ownership of the situation.
Ignoring controversy works in some cases, especially when the size of your community is somewhat small, but if the information being spread is capable of hurting your long-term business (or personal) goals, the best thing to do is to take ownership of the situation and be up front. Does that mean you have to admit to every rumor about the future of your company? No, but it does mean you should be actively aware of these situations and consider the risks associated with particular actions or inactions that you may be inclined to take.
Your personal life is your own, and the people around you may have varying levels of expectations when it comes to what you share about your interactions with them. In these cases, the best thing you can do is make sure reasonable boundaries are set and that you follow them letter for letter until the person in question says otherwise. You’re responsible for your actions, and what you decide to share is entirely your decision; just be aware of how these choices impact the lives of those around you.