When it comes to business content it’s good to be human but are you in danger of over-sharing?
‘The doctors told me he might never talk’
This was my friend talking about her son. He’d been given a diagnosis of Autism at a fairly young age and according to the doc, the outlook wasn’t great.
But hey, what do doctors know?
Over 10 years on, her boy has graduated college and is currently setting up his own business, in partnership with his mum. It turns out that for everything Autism has taken from him, it’s given something else back in spades — an incredible work ethic, attention to detail, boundless creativity. And he’s channeling it all into making custom wooden furniture.
‘You should blog about it’, I told her; share his struggles and how you’re managing to overcome them to create what will (I’m convinced!) be a thriving enterprise in the very near future.
‘Hmm, I could…but isn’t it a bit exploitative?’
Are we at risk of over-sharing?
As ever, I don’t think there’s a straightforward yes or no to either of those questions.
In some ways, as business owners, we’re undoubtedly becoming a flock of over-sharers. Every hardship we’ve faced, every medical diagnosis, every trauma becomes fodder for our marketing. In an attempt to prove how ‘human’ our brand is, and how relatable, we share our sob stories with our audience and the world.
‘See?’, we shout, ‘We’re not a soulless brand, we’re real people. We’ve struggled, just like you. Now, please buy our stuff!’
You begin to wonder if any of it is genuine and how much of it is fabricated to fit in with the current trend for ‘awareness days’ and vulnerability in business content.
It’s all just a bit icky. And as consumers, we’re all far too cynical to fall for it anyway.
Does that mean you shouldn’t share? Not necessarily. It’s just before you do, I want you to ask yourself one question:
Why am I sharing this?
I had to ask myself that recently. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I have an anxiety disorder (#endthestigma and all that jazz) but did I really want to bring it into my blog content? Would people think that I was jumping on the Mental Health Awareness Week bandwagon? Was I exploiting my diagnosis in exchange for an easy (and obvious) blog topic, with a squillion hashtags to go with it?
So I hesitated.
For about a minute before I realised that the answer to the ‘why am I sharing this’ question had nothing to do with being able to tick another week’s blog post off the to-do list — I wanted to get that content out there to help. Because running a business when you have a mental illness is really feckin’ hard and I’ve found quite a few solutions that I’ve found helpful. I wanted to write the article that I’d been searching for years ago and hadn’t quite found.
Will writing about my anxiety make me more relatable, more human or more likable? To the right people, maybe. Will it make them more likely to hire me over another writer? Who knows? But will I sleep better at night knowing that even one person has tried some of my tips and found a bit of relief from their own struggles with mental health? Damn right I will!
So my advice to my friend, wondering if it would be exploitative to share her son’s story as part of her marketing strategy? I asked her to stop thinking like a business owner, or a marketer, and to think like a consumer, a reader — and a mum.
Sure, thousands of people will be able to relate to her family’s story, to the struggles they had trying to secure an ASD diagnosis in the first place, what it meant for her son’s education, his social life, and his future. It’ll likely be a story that people will want to share far and wide — great news for a fledgling business. And yes, there are a ton of people who would happily shop their brand because of that.
But then who the hell wants to base their sales on a feeling of ‘well, they only bought my stuff because they felt sorry for me’? No business owner wants the power of a ‘sob story’ to eclipse the quality of their products or services!
No, the only reason you should be sharing your vulnerable moments boils down to the only reason you should post any type of content:
You want to help.
As much as writing about their business journey could do wonders for their SEO, their likeability and all of the other usual benefits that come with business blogging, the real benefit lies in the hope that it’ll provide the readers.
My friend always had hope for her boy and my god did she spend his childhood fighting to ensure that he would have a much brighter future than his doctor had predicted. But it was a hope fuelled by nothing more than maternal love. If she had been able to read stories about other kids who had overcome the same diagnosis, who had gone on to further education, who had become a talented craftsperson, who had had the balls to start their own business…can you imagine what a difference that would have made to the whole family in the days when unfounded hope was the only thing they had? The peace it would’ve brought them all? The stress it would have helped to relieve?
Yes, there’s an undeniable ick factor involved in the culture of vulnerability seeping into business content at the moment. But there doesn’t need to be. If you’re on the fence about sharing your own personal story, consider why you want to share in the first place. If you’re determined to write the article that you wished you could’ve read when you were really struggling, the chances are you’re thinking along the right lines.
(My friend’s business is very much in the fledgling stages right now but I’ll post a link to her website as soon as it’s available. I can’t wait to share their gorgeous creations with you guys!)