Set Web Content Boundaries & Free Yourself

content boundaries on whiteboard

You Create Web Content & You Have Boundaries, Right?

Entrepreneurs are everywhere. People start new businesses all the time. Lots of those entrepreneurs aren’t professionally comfortable in the world of social media and not confident about how to use the Web for business—particularly when it comes to setting boundaries around web content.

And content rules the Web. So what are you doing about web content? You have to feed the beast, but where do you draw the line between personal and personable? Between private and for public (or a certain network’s) consumption?

Social media still feels way too revealing for many entrepreneurs, but the business benefits are so obvious that we may find ourselves in a difficult position. How does one become comfortable enough to use the Web effectively without revealing too much and paying for it later?

When it comes to boundaries, start by remembering that you are your first and last line of defense. You can always choose not to share content online if it would bother you to see it on a billboard. This approach can make decisions about what to share much easier. When  everything you share could be public, there’s no reason to feel dread when a network changes its features, privacy options, or privacy policy.

However useful, that approach only helps with what not to talk about. What web content will you share? It also helps to consider setting boundaries in terms of web properties, audiences, and subject matter.

The final result can be an actual map, a mind map, or whatever else you choose. The exercise below demonstrates one way we help clients explore the power of setting boundaries that will form the basis of a  personal web content strategy for business.

Defining the Boundaries of Your Web Presence Phase 1

Today we’ll focus on the first phase of mapping boundaries for your web content—identifying who you want to talk to, on which web properties, and about what.

Doing some talking and a lot of listening will be essential for your project—it is the Social Web after all—and you’ll support your business goals by being intentionally, purposefully, social.

1. To start, think about your target audiences.

Consider:

  • who they are
  • networks that you will find them on (that will also work for you)
  • content you can create for them that also works for you
Green Lightbulb
If the content your audience values needs more elbow room than many web properties provide, consider blogging

2. Next decide which social networks / properties you will invest time in for your business. In our example we’ll be using a blog, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.

Establish a business web presence on each property if you haven’t already—stake out your properties by setting up accounts with appropriate names for your business presence. These are often separate from your personal presence, like a business page on Facebook that’s distinct from a personal profile.

Content boundaries exercise on whiteboard

3. Get out some paper, go to a whiteboard, or use another method to list your web properties (in the illustration you’ll see that we arranged each business web property in a column, but you should do whatever makes sense to you).

4. Identify your target audiences on that property.

5.  Describe your purpose for using each web property for business. Why are you willing to put your time and energy there? What do you want to accomplish? For example, establish a brand presence, increase mailing list signups, create a community…

OK, put that aside for a moment and switch gears. Time to put the focus on your part of the picture.

Identifying Boundaries for Your Web Content Phase 2

In the second phase of the exercise, it’s all about you.

1. Start by identifying the subjects that you’re willing to talk about on the Web. You’ll need to balance being personal with not being too revealing. Folks who were raised with strong ideas about appropriate topics for professional conversation or those who draw a bright line between the professional and the personal may have to wrestle with the whole social media / social networking concept along the way.

In a business environment newly enamored with social media, it helps to share insights that reveal more of your personality on the Web. If you want to be strategic about your social media / social networking efforts, it also helps to spend your time and energy sharing information that will help you connect with your audiences.

For example, the subject categories: news, hobbies, sports, and work-related info, might make sense to you. Some people can’t imagine posting about family or religion on social media, just as others can’t imagine not doing exactly that.

As you identify the subjects you’re willing to talk about on social networks, feel free to use whatever resources you have on hand and make this exercise your own. You can make lists on paper, use a whiteboard, or for a more interactive experience try Post-it® notes or index cards to make the sorting easier.

2. Now go back to the web properties you decided to use for business. Put a blank Post-it for each subject-matter category that it makes sense to talk about on each property that you listed. There will be overlap, but more importantly there should be differences too. As you consider the types of information that you’re happy to share, think about how your target audiences on each network will receive those posts.

content boundaries on whiteboard

3. Expand your subject categories by listing more specific topic ideas on Post-its of the appropriate color (or just making a list). Pay attention to how you will frame specific topics to resonate with your target audiences on different web properties. You should also consider the norms for each property—for example, on Twitter a free-wheeling style might be more acceptable for you than on LinkedIn.

As you build out the subject categories that define what you’re willing to share and the specific topics you want to cover, make note of ways you will present specific topics on each web property. Remember to circle back to your purpose for establishing a presence there, be aware of what your audiences expect and want, and keep on asking yourself how you can create stronger connections with those audiences.

Stop there for now and let your ideas simmer. Keep adding to your subject categories and topics when you think of something new.

In the next phase, we’ll explore practices for mapping and integrating your social media / social networking boundaries, content strategy, and workflow.

Illustrations by Tracey Holinka.