How Much Should We Share?

There’s a lot of forces that factor into what I do online, from my day job, expectations from the market, personal relationships and client relationships. In fact, I have some specific rules about how I blog, and even how I tweet. This last glorious weekend of sun and surf, I gave up just talking about web strategy, and extended the discussion to my personal life.

What’s interesting is that people react differently to me when I share my personal life (I am an individual, despite that I’ve dedicated most of my life to my career and family). I like Rex’s take, who had enough, and was thoughtful enough to say he didn’t want to hear about my personal life on Twitter. What’s important to me, may not be important to him, and I get that.

There’s a couple of potential solutions:

1) Do what I want, and tweet about what’s important to me during work, and what’s important to me after work. Battlestar Galactica and @goodboyrumba and all.
2) Just make my Twitter account for business and create a separate one for personal (more and more of my family is joining Twitter)
3) Wait for Twitter to offer permission based tweets around our different facets of our persona (work vs personal vs public).

It’s quite the conundrum. When I asked folks on Twitter, how much personal should I share, it was pretty even split. Some want to know more about the man behind web strategy, some just want all web strategy signal. On the other hand, we teach companies to show a bit of their human side to the market –but no one cares about what you ate for lunch.

I’m going to throw this one back to you, the readers, and do be honest. How much of my personal life do you care to hear from folks you’ve come to rely on for business information? Perhaps the bigger question is, how much of our personal lives should we share with our work? Is there a difference?

Update: Rex has a new blog post, All work makes Jack a dull boy, he’s read many of the comments on my post and his, for the most part we’re in agreement: mixture is needed, but better tools could help those filter content.

62 Replies to “How Much Should We Share?”

  1. I subscribe to information streams, but I follow people. I’m glad to gain information from people I respect, but I also enjoy getting to know the person. That’s how I operate on my blogs and on Twitter – while I do maintain different blogs on different themes (anyone is free to subscribe or not to any or all), it all coalesces on Twitter, where people follow people.

  2. Jeremiah,

    It seems to me that we all have choices of who we do and don’t follow on Twitter and while I’m new there I’m very interested in seeing all sides of the people who stay on my following list. Perhaps the ‘rules’ are different for someone with as many followers as you have but I doubt it. Why shouldn’t you be able to talk about the fun parts of life, especially because of all the useful information you serve up for free there.

    If they don’t want to read about the dog it isn’t all that hard to skip a post or two… It is your Twitter stream go for it all if that works for you. People who decide to only share business and/or personal can make that choice too.


  3. Personal responses to ‘What are you doing?’ can be useful and actionable. For example, I may tweet about the music I am listening to or name the restaurant and food that served me lunch and include a comment on the quality of it. People who trust my judgement may chose to investigate.

    A personal and a professional profile would be the way to go IMO for someone using Twitter as a means to connect with a network of friends.

  4. Somewhere I read to use the 80-20 rule on Twitter. 80% business, 20% show your personal side. That’s working for the primarily business- & technology-related Twitter community I participate in.

    It’s also why crossposting to Twitter & Facebook doesn’t work. On Facebook, my business/personal split goes the other way around. I’ve seen my professional contacts chastised or teased by their friends for talking about work way too much when they crosspost from Twitter.

    So I vote for keeping the dog and BSG!

  5. I agree with John Troyer, who talks about the 80/20 rule (business/personal). I apply the exact same approach with Twitter and as he says the opposite approach for Facebook. I can choose to filter those tweets that I’m not interested in or have time for during the day. For those people I follow faithfully for their business perspective, knowing a little of the personal side of them allows me some insight into their view of the world.

  6. Best to add enough personal touches to convey your personality. However, I’m in favor of maximizing tweets for the purpose most people found you, your insight on Social Media. Peter King’s MMQB in is now about 60% football and 40% coffee, travel and movie comments. Dilutes why I went there in the first place.

  7. I agree that it should be a mix of both your personal and business life in one’s tweets. I think its great to get to know the personalities of people who you follow mainly for their blogs and that some of the insights you gain via their personal tweets help in the business sense as well. I.e if you’re deciding on which VC’s to go with, the personality type of your board is an important factor. Another would be when pitching to VC’s, structuring your pitch with a tinge of insights you gain about the investor’s personality via twitter.

    Just a thought but I hope it helps and am a big fan of your writing.

  8. Perhaps if enough people adopted a convention for labeling personal tweets with a special hashtag, say #p , then followers could filter if they so desired. Tweetdeck already allows excluding tweets that contain a specified string. Twitter clients could evolve to support easily filtering of personal tweets on a per user basis without requiring Twitter platform changes.

  9. I use Twitter primarily for business, but my Facebook account has picked up a mix of family, personal and business associates. I know I am boring someone whenever I post there. My decision is to occasionally post a msg on Facebook for folks interested mainly in business topics to follow me on Twitter so that I can let Facebook become more personal.

    My thoughts about your Tweets are that you share great information and I enjoy an occasional glimpse of the person behind the keyboard.

    Pat, The Detail Person

  10. Jeremiah: I agree with a lot of folks here. On Twitter, I think there’s room for both the professional and the personal as well. I do a bit of both in Twitter, and tend to share more of the personal side in Facebook, since a lot of my friends and family have said I need to share more fun stuff there.

    My thought is that sharing some element of things you like or do a personal level is another way to connect with others.


  11. I like seeing a mix of personal with business tweets. I like knowing about @goodboyrumba and I enjoyed hearing about your vacation. I like knowing that @chrisbrogan has kids and how he spends his time with them. And it’s the same with the others that I follow who I haven’t met…it makes the conversations a bit more personal.

    To me, this isn’t much different than the casual conversations I hold with my clients. That little bit of sharing just makes the relationship a bit nicer.

    And I’d feel funny following your personal account on Twitter (if you were to get one, that is).

    I like the 80/20 rule quoted earlier, and I think your tweets fall well within those limits.


  12. I think it depends on what your average tweets are.

    Example: Jeremiah, you tweet about mostly business (85%) and some personal (15%). If you start tweeting more personal than business, it throws off people perceptions of your tweets, and upsets the balance.

    I, however, tweet more personal (60%) than business (40%). If I start posting a lot of business related tweets, people get thrown off. I have a nice balance because I talk only the amount of business I want to tell my followers.

    In the grand scheme of things, however, you can use it however you want, and it’s really easy to just skip over the irrelevant tweets of people you follow. That’s part of the magic of twitter.

  13. Jeremiah-
    There is a theme taking place here. Twitter is primarily for work and Facebook for personal friends. I agree with that, but can’t we have friends in a work environment? I saw a post by Joe Jaffe about Manchester United and how he dislikes them. I replied and learned that he is a die hard Spurs fan. That is something that I never would have known without the personal side of Twitter.

    There needs to be a balance and some personal Tweets here and there help build relationships and allow followers to see more than just the business side of people. I think our views on business have a lot of personality behind them and Twitter opens the blinds. What I don’t want to hear is that someone just got to work, poured some coffee, opened email, had a phone call, went to the bathroom, sat in a boring meeting and now working on a presentation. Personal Tweets must show allow a view into your life.

  14. Mitch, good stuff.

    Lionel, glad to hear you here, and glad you like the redesign. Mitch (blue quotes above) is the designer.

    Kyle, Yup we’re seeing a pattern here for sure. Many think Facebook is for personal use.

  15. Jeremiah,

    My take is that I follow people. I follow those individual’s that help me in both work and personal. I hope that I do the same for others. The biggest part for me – is I have the choice to follow or not. If I am not getting what I want – then I move on.

    I struggle from time to time to tweet or not, so to speak, about work. There are some topics that just do not make sense, for security purposes.. So, they are out. Then there are those that follow me – at work – that want more information.

    It all comes down to me… If I can live with the information – great. If not, I have to change.

  16. I follow you as a person – I like to hear both personal & business stuff. If you turned into one of those bot like folks who just tweet their blog posts or similar I’d probably unfollow.

  17. I’m glad you like it Lionel – we’ve put a lot of time and effort into making it amazing 🙂

    I agree with Kate – i like to know that the blog has a real person behind it. It gives it personality.

  18. See my response to Jeremiah’s last post below for comment on this post…

    As a pr professional for close to 19 years now I view social media and its applications through the lense of someone using it for a specific, directed purpose; as a channel, to communicate ideas, build brand preference and drive commerce. I know it has far greater applications as it relates to social sciences, crm, marketing or to simply connect.

    We all have a different approach to this media and use it for a variety of reasons. What I find fascinating is the line between professional and personal is so blurred now. I listed to a Garyvee presentation at Inman Connect last year where he said, I pee™d the bed until I was 14. That™s right, might as well get it out there he said because it will come out onlne anyway.

    It is counter-intuitive to someone who has worked in strategic communications that you should be so transparent in your business and personal life and I think this is where the real differnce lies between the next generation of professionals. The young professionals of today are more willing to share of themselves fully online. I for one am very thankful that digital photography did not exist when I as in college.

    I understand the Cluetrain crowd, but it is a big adjustment to simply let down your professional guard and vault into the social media space.

    It reminds me of the first time I visited California and asked someone at a party in Marin Co., what they did? Their response was, I snowboard in the winter, surf in the summer and listen to music. All I really wanted to know about was what they did for a living, as was custom where I was from (D.C.) at the time. We are just not used to sharing the personal with someone who I™d only just met. I find the same dynamic online.

    As a brand, CENTURY 21 is getting ready to do some fairly groundbreaking social media application. I believe the transparency is a good thing, particular in the real estate industry. For the recent college grads, my advice is to learn how to write regardless of the field you select. Understanding social media is second nature by now I would think, but having the vision of how social media may be applied to business is of even more value.

    Keep up the thought provoking posts.

    Best Regards,

    Matt Gentile, Director, PR
    CENTURY 21 Real Estate

  19. There’s something about “leading through vulnerability” that really appeals to me. Not to be mawkish about it, or share TOO much personal info that you the writer might later wish to take back. Still, I like to think we’re doing all this — the blogging and the Tweeting — to build relationships. Good relationships are good for business, but they’re also good for people, and good for the planet.

    Keeping all the firewalls intact, all the way around who we are and what we care about penalizes everybody in my opinion — most particularly the one behind the curtain.

  20. Jeremiah, I agree with most of the people here. I would like to hear both – professional and personal. I think hearing some personal details helps provide context to your professional views and thought formulation. Cheers and keep up the great work.

  21. When I follow someone, I want to hear it all. That being said, I maintain several different Twitter accounts for people who don’t. @hardaway is the fire hose. But Ushealthcris, slhi and azentrepreneurs are for people with specific business interests that don’t include information about what Buppy ate.

    That’s why I like Twitter; the option for multiple accounts.

  22. I’ve often battled this same question myself. I started off using Twitter for only career related discussion and resorted to Facebook for all things personal with friends and family. I remember one day, shortly after I joined Twitter, a good friend of mine made a comment to me that I should share some personal things about myself in my Tweets. I think its a tough balance, especially if you’ve set some level of expectation with your Followers. I still tend to stick to non personal related Tweets and share some hints about me on rare occasions. To answer your question though, no matter how big an influencer “you” are in a particular field or industry, a view into ones personality is always nice. It helps connect on some virtual level, to know there is a person “behind the mask”.

  23. Many of my “real life” friends don’t follow me on Twitter anymore because I tweet too much. I’d love an integrated way for people to subscribe to *some* of my tweets … maybe I could mark those I felt were important with a carat (^), and people could choose to get all my tweets or just my important ones.

    The alternative is having two accounts, @MarinaMartinBiz and @MarinaMartinPersonal — and while this is similar to how we handle email and instant messaging today, it doesn’t feel like such a fragmented approach would be a good option on Twitter today.

  24. I think whatever the world reads about you (on twitter or elsewhere) has been filtered at least twice — first by you, because you would only share what you feel comfortable sharing; then by the reader because they will (implicitly or explicitly) select what they want to know (about you, your work, etc.).

    You can only control your side of things, so don’t worry about the other side. And consider your readers educated/mature enough to do their own filtering. Worst case, you will lose a few followers…


  25. I believe it’s about setting expectations. If I know your Twitter feed is going to be 80% business and 20% personal, then I’m not going to get frustrated at the odd post about you munching on an overcooked steak.

    But it has to be consistent.

    I also think the type of personal detail you give is important too. If you’re in London for example on a conference and give the odd post about the horrible weather or Dave from company X was seen chatting to Mike from company Y, it’s personal but also relevant.

  26. Mitch, that’s a great point about consistency.

    Jeremiah, this is such a topical topic! To me it comes back to entertainment value.

    Take Chris Brogan’s latest tweet:

    Not admitting to this, but if you spread Nutella onto a Girl Scout thin mint cookie, I bet that would rock. #latenightsnack

    It has zero to do with work, but it is delivered with wit and humour. It made me laugh out loud – that’s value added for me.

  27. That’s a difficult question. I follow @jowyang for the industry news, and the analysis; however, at the same timer, I always like to know a little more about the people I work with, suppliers, clients, or partners, beyond the resume – the things that make them tick, the things they like and dislike. Some of my most successful partnerships and deals have been cemented over a coffee or a beer, when the conversation has veered off business to rugby or school or food or whatever, and then back to business. Overall, I believe that getting a rounded picture of the person is valuable in understanding their perspective, and so helps in understanding their business decisions. so don’t worry about the personal tweets every now and then: they prove you’re a sentient human who has a life away from the anlyst’s desk.

  28. Thank you everyone for your honesty, and the time it took to leave a comment. I’ve given this a good night’s rest, and a good long think.

    I’m not planning to change anything about my Tweeting behavior, it will continue to primarily be about what I’m doing at that moment.

    Most of the time that will be work and industry content (which is what I do most of the time anyways). And you’ll see a bit of a mix of personal observations and passions, but likely just about 15-20%. (not that I’m trying to count)

    Ideally, this could be a win if there was a system in place developed by Twitter or third parties that allowed me to leave a #personal hashtag for non work content, so those that just want the web strategy content could filter out.

    Until that arrives, I’m going to keep on doing what I have been, knowing I can’t please everyone, but can please the majority, and perhaps more importantly, myself.

  29. Jeremiah, I believe you should share less about your private life and more about your professional life. Being a celebrity social marketing expert means you are walking a fine line but IMHO i believe less is more.

  30. Jennifer, what if I disclosed just as much about my personal life as I would during a coffee break at a business meeting?

    In essence, it’s no different, as both professional and personal are public.

  31. Jeremiah this is a great discussion, thanks for providing the tinder to create this brush fire.

    I agree with your decision not to change how you tweet. I myself have come to a similar decision regarding my own twitter habits. Although I understand that some people aren’t interested in learning about the personal lives of those they follow on twitter, the core idea and value behind twitter is the sharing of personally relevant information.

    I wonder how one who has received their business chops in France would approach this topic. From my limited understanding French culture places significant distance between one’s work and personal life.

  32. Most people following you and others related to web strategies have similar interests, mostly business related. I used to follow Nouriel Roubini, but got annoyed because all he tweeted about was what type of lobster he was having in Davos. I have two facebooks accounts, one for business and one for personal. I think 1:10 ratio of personal to business is about right. By providing links to your blog or photo site, people will always have the chance to get to know you better, no need to use up tweet space for that.
    Paul Lopez

  33. Jeremiah,

    I think that when people follow someone in a certain field or industry on Twitter that they are looking for market insights and learnings to keep them on their toes. That said, they also like the small glimpses into the personal side of their lives – but only enough to detect the personality and make the business ingestion of content entertaining during their day.

    When the Tweeting crosses over to personal, it can get “too” personal. I’ve stopped following people specifically for that reason. Twitter needs to provide the ability to filter outgoing tweets. For now, two accounts is the only way to manage things.


  34. This is a topic I’ve been thinking a lot about lately too. I think most of the posters have nailed the varying perspectives but I wonder if the answer to the question “how much to share” is driven by gender, ethnicity or generation? My kids who are Asian-American are much more comfortable “living in public” than my generation. And, my husband and his friends, who are non-Asian, are much more comfortable than me and my first generation Asian, female friends.

  35. I know I’m a little late to the convo here but I just subscribed to your feed and was browsing through the latest posts and this one caught my attention.

    There are several answers, and they’ve been mostly explored above but my main guide is

    a) Sticking to my profile. I say that I’m a social content manager and “being social” is my hobby and career. I also mention some of my other interests including Yoga and wine. So if you follow me you can expect to hear about social media strategy, socializing (aka – my weekend), and a few comments on my listed interests. It’s transparent that way and I think that’s key. If your profile makes you sound like you’re all business and I follow you for that – then you start tweeting about your life, I might be turned off. If your profile lists your business interests and also that you’re a movie nut – I’ll expect that kind of thing.

    b) While I think it’s ok to mix in some personal information – I think people need to be careful about what they “go on record” about. The internet (and all social networks) are pretty public places no matter how you set your permissions so make sure you’re not saying anything you wouldn’t want tied to your name and that you wouldn’t say in real life.

    Very thoughful post, thanks!

  36. Speaking for me (bcause I suppose everyone is different) I LOVE the mix and you walk the line *brilliantly* … I tire VERY quickly of the commercial Tweeple I follow who do nothing but broadcast news or specials about their product

  37. Hi Jeremiah,

    Andrew is going to be a tough act to follow! However, I’m in the camp that the technology is deficient. Twitter and/or Facebook. Today they’re bullhorns vs radio stations. They drive multiple account creation vs individual account stratification.

    Twitter could allow you or your end user to select “all/personal/business” options. Posting a tweet could default to all but if just personal (“This lobster is great at Davos”) then hit “personal” and only those on that “channel” would see.

    Facebook could have knocked LinkedIn out if it allowed for greater subtlety in how you managed your contacts and content. Who wants to manage multiple sites if they can do it all through one location?


  38. J: I agree with Mitch Canter & Katie Van Domelen = in your bio, stating what you’ll be talking about. Once you’ve started, say 80% business & 20% personal, try to stay that way. I guess if you have to change, at least update your bio declaring so, and probably send out a tweet that you’re changing so that it’s not unexpected.

  39. I created a blog post as my thoughts on the matter.

    Bottom line – I think most of us have some sort of threshold of tolerance on Twitter as to what we are willing to put up with in order to get the value we’re looking for. I think of it like a conversion ratio in analytics. I find value in your tweet, it’s a conversion, I don’t, not a conversion.

    You’re far from that tipping point to me, so I continue to follow, but Rex also gets my follow now 🙂

    Many thanks to the work you do!

  40. Jeremiah,

    This raises a great question when it comes to corporate blogging. Obviously you have separated yourself from Forrester enough to make this decision for yourself. But in the corporate environment where does the line exist and is it better practice to have a true separation? If true company sponsered blogging is chosen, does it then dilute the personal touch to the end reader if the writer has to stay within boundaries?


  41. I think the main issue you are addressing is that is a one-size fits-all website (much like Google or Yahoo).

    All such branded media will ultimately become rather insignificant — what will continue matter are the contexts in which people interact (I think maybe someone at Microsoft recently said that the future is in verbs, but I don’t see any sign of Barry Diller’s IAC folding soon due to betting on “hotels”).

    People who put all of their posts in one website are running many high risks – and I expect many will have a rude awakening once Google’s GMail (or similar services) go bust (remember GeoCities? ;). If you bet exclusively on Google, then: Gooooooooood luck!

    ;D nmw

  42. Jeremiah,

    I have been wrestling with this phenomena too.

    I consider you to be a mentor and aim to learn how you decide to share your personal life on Twitter. Therefore, my vote is for you to keep on teaching the community.

  43. Jeremiah,

    Here is the NY Times Magazine article “The Chatty Classes” which offers the perspective that “The capital might be a better place if it became a Twitter-free zone, a city where people spent more time talking to the guy serving the coffee and less time informing the world that the coffee had, in fact, been served.”

    I love doing face-to-face and Twitter conversations. I had the pleasure of meeting Evan Williams, Twitter’s CEO and Founder at a meet-up several weeks ago and thanked him for “getting this ol’ guy back into the game!”.

  44. Jeremiah,

    I think by sharing your personal life you validate your professional comments – after all who we are as people influences our work and especially our opinions. Learning that your grandfather was a Chinese-American aviator in WWII tells me that you probably grew up in American culture, rather than just moving there later in life. That probably affects your opinions on the social web, whilst your family connections to Germany and China offer you a different slice of life.

    Twitter is also more personal than work, less like LinkedIn more like Facebook (without the high bandwidth). However, I follow your tweets for your smart ideas – but getting personal flavour in there is cool provided it does not overwhelm or go suddenly higher/lower in volume (I think that how often you tweet is a matter of etiquette on Twitter).

    Angus McDonald

  45. Personal responses to 'What are you doing?' can be useful and actionable. For example, I may tweet about the music I am listening to or name the restaurant and food that served me lunch and include a comment on the quality of it. People who trust my judgement may chose to investigate.

    A personal and a professional profile would be the way to go IMO for someone using Twitter as a means to connect with a network of friends.

  46. I agree with this article! You should have a separate social media account 1 personally and 1 for business to avoid any conflict or any personal/business information from leaking.

  47. I think that we all ahould share I mean if we do not share how will other people get a chance at things there is always an answer with sharing

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