When you’re letting your personality out, it’s possible to go too far. Generally, the more you let people see your personality, the better. But if you cross that line, you could lose your audience’s respect, draw negative press social media criticism and permanently burn bridges in your industry.
So where is that line?
==> Being Opinionated vs. Being Crass
Don’t be afraid to be opinionated. But avoid being crass.
Avoid excessive swearing. Swearing can be great emphasizing tools when used sporadically with the right audience. But for many audiences, it’s a turnoff and it comes off as unprofessional. Use it very sparingly.
The same goes with direct insults, or anything that could be perceived as “screaming” online, including writing in caps. You can do it when you feel very strongly, once or twice a year perhaps. But if you do it frequently, you’ll lose your audience.
==> The Handshake Test
It’s perfectly okay to disagree with someone’s opinions. It’s also perfectly okay to express those opinions publically. Public figures more or less expect that to be part of the game. But it’s different if things get personal, or if you cross the boundary between disagreeing with their work to attacking them as a person.
A good rule of thumb is the “handshake test.” Ask yourself: Would this person shake your hand if you met them in person, after reading your article?
If a company releases a program and you write a bad review, would they still shake your hand? Probably. What if you tore into the CEO’s personal history? Probably not.
==> Humor Goes a Long Way
If you can make your content humorous, you can get away with saying a lot of things that you couldn’t otherwise get away with. Comedians do this all the time: They say extremely insulting things, yet get away with it because it’s just a joke.
How do you come off humorous? Being spontaneous is one good way. Being surprisingly honest is another way. Producing your content in multimedia, such as podcasts or videos, can make it a lot easier for your sense of humor to come out than over text.
==> Walking the Line
All that said, you don’t want to always play it too safe. If you stray too far on the safe side, you risk appearing dull or unopinionated. Instead, you want to come as close as possible to walking the line, without actually crossing it.
If you can actually straddle the line, where you get “I can’t believe he just said that” reactions from people while they’re still smiling and enjoying it, then you’re right at the golden point.
Use your intuition. Don’t be afraid to say what you think, but be careful of stepping over the line. Say what you have to say, but don’t cross the boundary between “expressive” and “crass.”