How leaders can be vulnerable on social media without being TMI oversharers


“You have to be more vulnerable.” What does that actually mean? If you’re a professional who is on social media to attract clients or raise your profile, what should remain in the confines of the therapist’s office and what should be public? 

As an award-winning video marketer and coach, I guide business owners, consultants, and coaches on how to showcase their value, show up on camera confidently, and make videos that bring in clients. A common question is “Should I share this—where is the line between personal and too personal?” My rule of thumb is: Share stories and lessons that are rooted in your experiences but that other people will find relatable. And most importantly, your real and authentic personality must be on display at all times on social media. 

Press releases and canned business content won’t build relationships and won’t make people want to work with you. Bring your personality into every post and share your struggles and triumphs. There is an opportunity to highlight more of yourself even in “educational” content. It’s an art, that’s why there is a whole field of communications experts. The phrase “people buy from people” is spot-on, especially when your business is service-based; you must share more than just your résumé online. 

Tori Dunlap, bestselling author of Financial Feminist and host of the podcast Financial Feminist and the platform Her First 100K, has about 5 million social media followers. She warns that as you grow your following you realize “you are talking to people who have never met you, who have no idea what’s going on in your life, and deciding where to let them in can be really tricky.” 

Because Dunlap educates on money, she says she’s a multimillionaire and is “pretty open” about money. As for the more personal side, she learned her lesson the hard way. Dunlap set a boundary in her current relationship, which is with a non-entrepreneur who’s not on social media. In her previous relationship she had shared about it, but when that relationship ended, she says “it was very difficult for me when people were asking ‘Hey, where’s this person? and I am grieving a breakup, I don’t want to talk about this.”

How much should you share?

Patrice Poltzer, who runs a video storytelling agency, says, “Powerful personal stories come from drawing on universal emotions that every person experiences, like loss, grief, imposter syndrome, joy, resilience. Ladder your personal stories against what your audience cares about, then also ask if your stories touch on a universal emotion.” Find a balance of trauma versus triumph. Poltzer reminds us, “The audience is not your therapist.”  

Matt Abrahams, professor at Stanford School of Business, host of the Think Fast, Talk Smart podcast, and author of the bestselling book Think Faster, Talk Smarter, says to think about the “themes that you want to get across to articulate.” Consider the brand you want to put out there and “use specific themes with anecdotes and stories.” We’ve all been told that “authenticity” is key. Abrahams adds that consistency is important as well. 

Picture yourself in a live business meeting with each of your followers. It’s the period of chitchat before or after “the big pitch.” What is it about you that will make you memorable, likable, trustworthy, and credible? This alchemy is the same on social media, and turns followers into clients.