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Just How “Transparent” Should You be Online?

I’m an editor. This means I delete, modify and replace words and thoughts for a living, in efforts to create a polished product intended to drive specific results.

Depending on the platform, these objectives will differ. From a journalistic perspective, the ultimate goal is to share the truth.

But as a storyteller and content marketer, the intentions are slightly skewed…

Website traffic.

And yet, when it comes to determining what to share in the online world, I am often preaching a life unedited; a life unfiltered.

It’s a difficult balance. I, too, edit the posts I share on my online profiles. In fact, sometimes I have to force myself to stop editing. It’s the perfectionist within me.

Every time I post something real, something vulnerable, I have a moment (or two) of panic, fearing the consequences of hitting the all-too-familiar “publish” button. I dread the judgments—from followers, colleagues and complete strangers— that play over and over again in my head. What’s interesting is, those anxiety-ridden posts are also the ones that inspire the most meaningful responses. There’s nothing more rewarding than when a subscriber sends me an email saying my blog post was exactly what he needed to read that day, or a colleague mentions a Facebook post over coffee, saying it helped her navigate a difficult decision.

The things that make us feel vulnerable are also what make us human. They’re how we relate. They’re how we build meaningful relationships.

But how far is too far?

I’m a confessed over-sharer. In other words, I share a lot of my daily life online for people to see. I fill my friends’ feeds with travel photos (although I really do put an effort in to keep it controlled). I snap videos when I’m cooking dinner. I blog about my work as an entrepreneur.

I’m sure there are more than a few people out there who feel annoyed by my posts. But guess what? I’m not posting for them.

I’m posting for the entrepreneurs who love the hustle. I’m posting for the millennials who want to live life beyond the status quo. I’m posting for the artists who want to make a living with their craft.

I’m posting for current and prospective clients. (Okay, and also for my fellow dog-lovers).

There is certainly some strategy involved in choosing what I publish online. I’m not looking to display the dirty dishes in the sink, nor am I trying to paint a picture of the perfect little tea party.

Still, what I post has certainly been altered for the online world.

Just as I’m not going to share my bedtime routine with my followers, I don’t need to shove my political views down their throats.

I can have an opinion without the need to shout it from the rooftops of the Zuckerberg mansion.

It’s like… When your guest list is lactose-intolerant, you don’t serve four-cheese lasagna.

When you’re hosting a birthday party for your 80-year-old grandmother, you don’t blast the latest Drake album.

When you’re attending a business-networking event, you don’t wear a t-shirt with the words “Vote Trump” slapped across the back.

Why? Because it’s not really about you.

And neither are your marketing efforts.

Yes, we want to relate to you, which requires getting a little personal. But we don’t want to hear about your porn addiction or the detailed summary of your flu symptoms.

The truth is… There’s a filter for that.

The key is understanding how and when to turn it on.

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Charlotte Ottaway

Charlotte is the founder of Web of Words. She helps solopreneurs and small business owners create real human connections online through blogging and social media. Her work has been published in Maclean's, Canadian Business, Zoomer, The Globe and Mail, The Huffington Post Canada and other Canadian publications. Better known by family and friends as Carly, she currently resides in Newmarket with her husband and fur-babe. To learn more, check out her portfolio at charlotteottaway.com and follow her on Twitter @charlottaway.

5 Comments Write a comment

  1. I too have to rein myself in when it comes to sharing things on social media. Especially since starting my blog, I sometimes have difficulty sharing a personal side of myself, not knowing if it’s a good idea or not. In real life I tend to ramble on and probably say more than I should when I’m nervous. I’m hoping it’s doesn’t carry over into my blog. I do try to stay away from politics though. LOL


    • Charlotte Ottaway

      I guess there’s good reason for the age-old advice to avoid talking politics, sex and religion in business. (Of course, where there are rules, there are always reasons to break them!). Thanks for reading and commenting, Shelly. I always enjoy following along with your posts. And I say keep pushing yourself to get personal. Someone out there feels the same way as you do, and if you don’t put it out there, you’ll never know what kind of difference you could make in their day.


      • Thanks so much Charlotte!! I’m always so nervous every time I publish a blog post. Like today! LOL I’m still new to this blogging thing and just feeling my way along for now. I’m always hoping to make some connection. 🙂


  2. Finally got a chance to read this and I’m smiling … Truth is, unfortunately, that not everyone has that internal filter that says “Whoa Missy, TMI” or that little voice that says “Oops, too far” – at least not on social media which is a world unto itself :O
    I ALWAYS read, re-read, edit, and hover over the “post” button and it still stings when people decide to “hide post” or “hide all posts” !! … I guess the upside is that they didn’t decide to Unfollow 🙂
    BTW , this comment has been edited for political correctness so that it does not offend anyone.
    P.S – I’ve never read a Web of Words or Charlotte Ottaway post that went too far!


    • Charlotte Ottaway

      It’s always going to be a fine line. Not sure if that “publish” button every gets any less intimidating either! And thanks for the reassurance, Janice, it definitely helps to calm the nerves. Right back at you 🙂


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