In today’s world of online social networking and reality T.V., it can be difficult to decipher between what should be open to the world and what should be kept private. You want to strike a balance between your public and private lives to keep others interested, while simultaneously maintaining a bit of mystique. Let’s discuss a few ways to find this balance so you can ride that line successfully.

How personal should you get?

Every time a new technology is created that enables two-way communication in a new way, there’s an adoption curve. We are in the midst of the curve between pre-social networking internet and the social networking internet world we’re now immersed in. We have passed the tipping point, but it’s still like a flashy object that most of us react to, rather than strategically think about, consider, and plan around before acting. The personal is the new black, but in order to be effective with our personal brands, it requires the drawing of a line between what we want to keep private and what we are willing to share. Before we worry about how personal someone should get, it’s better to start by individually assessing how personal you get in your offline life (if that even exists anymore), and create a formula to bridge that persona with your connected image. It requires more thought than ever before; with every person around us now a photojournalist with a Smartphone, how personal or private we are is, to a large degree, out of our control. We live in a world of everyday paparazzi, and there’s no efficient or sensible way to hide from it. (Hint to the reader: if you don’t want to be seen on People of Wal-Mart-type sites, think about your clothes before you leave the house!)

How do you create a mystique in this era?

We live in an era where the poser is exposed rather quickly, as this relates to companies and individuals who promote one message but deliver another. Case in point: in the publishing industry, there is a fear of DRM-free publishing cannibalizing profits, sales, and intellectual property, but the truth is that anything that can be copied (books, CDs, etc.) is at the top of the information funnel, not the wide bottom. Attention and engagement are scarce commodities, so individuals or companies afraid to put their best stuff out for free to build engagement are missing the point. For example, thought leaders who are in high demand, from Marshall Goldsmith to Gerd Leonhard, have put pretty much all of their ideas on their websites or YouTube for free, but you pay a high premium to have them come to your company and consult, speak, or advise. They are selling the scarce commodity of access to them, and differentiating their value by making their ideas, insights, and tactics readily available on a consistent basis. Seth Godin shares his pearls of wisdom freely on his blog and has a monster list. Wine TV has created a phenomenon over 6 years with its daily broadcasts of wine tastings and commentary that’s made Gary V a household name. Old Spice has reinvigorated a dead brand by answering each individual question or comment to its YouTube viral commercials with a video. Any individual or brand that’s acting as if they have the goods is doomed, because once they share one golden nugget, they have nothing left. Deeply valuable and truly revolutionary brands and thinkers could never give away all their great ideas, even if they tried. The more you share your valuable insights and the more you willingly connect, the more you differentiate and create a new mystery around this question in the user/consumer mind: “If they are giving this away for free, what do I get when I actually pay them?”

How do we strike a balance between the personal and the private?

Privacy is an opt-in reality today, so it’s up to us, as individuals, to draw our lines and protect what we hold dear. Find balance when sharing the things in your life that you don’t mind exposing and the things you do, so no one has time to wonder what you are keeping for yourself. The extreme example that revels in non-stop drama and coverage, like Kim Kardashian, still maintains a separate side of her life that she chooses to keep private. The trick is that we already are inundated with so much information about the person that those of us who don’t like those brands don’t want to see more, and those of us who love and feel connected and inspired by those brands feel like we know them. The truth is that we still only know what the person wants us to know.

How does oversharing affect your image?

At the end of the day, we live in a world that is truly interconnected by technology, but feels disconnected from humanity. The brands and individuals that can leverage the former to become a solution to the latter will be of utmost importance in the years to come. There are exceptions to all rules, but for the most part, oversharing will damage your reputation and hurt your brand.

In our social network and reality T.V. world, it’s becoming harder and harder to decipher the line between what should be public and private. Decide what you feel comfortable sharing, and move forward, continually reassessing your own feelings and the feelings of those you trust. When you find your balance, keep it. That mystique will keep people interested.