Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How Much Personal Detail Should You Share Online?

With the introduction of social media, people are sharing more of themselves online. On occasions, this has led to identity theft and associated troubles with credit cards, mortgages, jobs, and other aspects of the victims' lives. So the question we need to ask ourselves is "How much personal detail should I share online?"

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In traditional business, relationships have always been important. People want to buy from people or organisations whom they trust and they provide information about their names and addresses and will often chat with well-known business people about their families, lives, jobs as well as the weather and the winner of the last race or football game.

When I go into my local newspaper shop, I don't only want to buy a paper, magazine or lottery ticket. I also want to say hello to my friends of over 20 years who own and run the shop. It's a social opportunity as well as a purchasing opportunity.

This being the case, it's not rocket science to believe that interpersonal relationships online are also important. Buyers don't want simply to call into a business with which they aren't familiar and buy something. They also want a sense of personal relationship if they are to keep returning. After all, we are social animals.

From a business owner's perspective then, it's important to let visitors to your site know who you are and what you do, where you can be contacted. Before they hand over their hard-earned money to a page on the internet, they usually want some assurance that they'll get what they pay for from a reputable dealer.

Your site should have full details of your firm, your senior staff, and present a personable image so that the visitors sense that yours is a business they would want to deal with. Remember, there are always other options ... thousands of them.

Some of the clients whose sites I have improved had sites where visitors had no idea where they were located which is important if you plan to order something heavy or large that will cost a fortune to ship. Or perhaps something the customs agencies will not allow to be purchased overseas eg, wooden materials or foodstuffs, weapons, drugs etc. Other sites with which I worked were so poorly designed that it was almost impossible to determine what it was they were selling. Can you believe that?

You land on the home page of a site and you have no idea where it is located and what they sell. What do you do? Most people just move on.

It's no big deal to include a by-line that says, "We make Australia's best pies" or "Canada's online furniture store" so that the moment someone lands on your page, they know what you are about.

Some photos of the people involved and a short bio can also help instill confidence. You don't have to tell them your full name, date of birth or too much personal information, but just sufficient to bridge the gap between known and unknown. Business contact details are sufficient. They can call you or email you if they need additional information.

With established customers, your email messages, telephone contacts etc should always be friendly and semi-formal just as they would be if you were talking in a shop.

For personal online activities, you should only share what you are willing to and perhaps not tell everyone all your names, street address, birth date and other information that could allow someone an opportunity to pretend to be you.

Not everyone you meet online has your best interests at heart.



  1. Very informative! I love your blog, it is well written and gives me a lot to think about!

    1. Thanks Sally, I'm pleased you are finding something relevant to you at Working Smarter.


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