There’s no turning back – social media is here to stay so why not make the most of it, both personally and professionally!
LinkedIn was my first foray into the social media world, followed by Twitter then eventually Facebook and others. Did I succumb to social pressures to join? No, I would say more out of self preservation at first. Then, as I started to see the benefits of these technology tools, I realized it was time to embrace the concept and jump in with both feet.
Having swum in these waters now for about five years I’ve learned a lot along the way. However, technology is changing fast and it is wise to ensure that what you’re “doing” in the social media space is not misrepresenting you and not detrimental to your career or personal life. According to a recent survey, Facebook has been linked to 66% of divorce cases in the U.S. A quick internet search divulges endless faux pas one can make on LinkedIn to kill their career in a flash.
If you want to protect your reputation, your career and your organization, here are a few tips I gathered from our resident social media expert and talent sourcer Annette Kohut of People First HR Services along with some of my own suggestions:
- It’s okay to adapt a different personality for each of the different social media platforms. Twitter calls for you to share your thoughts in short, professional snippets (don’t write a novel); while Facebook allows you to share more personal aspects of your life with family and friends, such as recent vacations, job changes and so on.
- Your followers on Twitter are savvy and everyone feels they have the right to respond to your comments. Be careful how your respond back, if you do, when a critical comment is made. Don’t pick fights on any social media platform – nothing good will come of this.
- Everything, and I mean everything, you put on social media is there FOREVER. Before you post a status update, upload a picture, or tweet your thoughts, stop, think and ask yourself, “If this showed up on the front page of the local newspaper tomorrow, would it matter?” Maybe even more impactful, what will your children think about your post 20 years from now? According to a report by CNN.com, Twitter and the Library of Congress announced that every public tweet posted since Twitter began in 2006 will be archived digitally by the federal library.
- Each social media platform has intended or unintended uses as they have evolved. For example, LinkedIn is used primarily for business purposes – we don’t need to hear about your child’s wedding or how your golf game went. Twitter is good for business and personal topics – just remember that your business contacts can see your personal posts too. Facebook is more personal – so make sure you have set your security settings appropriately so your potential employer doesn’t discover what’s behind your kimono.
- Every time you put a statement ‘out there’ that people can see, you are being judged, whether you like it or not. As well, just like email and other forms of electronic communication, people may misinterpret what you mean.
- Be respectful of the online community. Social media can be your friend in business and it can turn on you in an instant. A classic example was in 2012 when the Manitoba PC Youth Party Leader quit over racist comments he made on a social media website.
- Never post confidential information. In organizations, make sure you have protocol in place for how you are going to handle a social media mistake made by one of your employees. Educate your people on how to use social media for business purposes and follow that up with a company policy as a proactive measure to protect the organization.
- Don’t post content without proofreading, while tired or under the influence of alcohol.
- Make sure you understand the mechanics of social media. Hashtags, @ replies, #FF, tagging, direct messages versus public post – we’ve all made the occasional mistake. The stakes are high – make sure you get it right.
- My personal pet peeve – don’t post on LinkedIn about what you just cooked and ate. Save that for your Facebook friends who will be delighted to see your latest creation.
Social media can be a great communication tool when used properly. Don’t be afraid and don’t be a ‘lurker” (you know, the people who don’t post anything and just lurk around snooping into other’s social media space). Do a little research, talk to someone who is social media savvy and get started. It can be fun personally and rewarding professionally. It can save you a ton of time getting up to speed with news from around the world and it can keep you up late into the night as you discover a whole new world on Pinterest (caution – highly addictive).
Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke wisely when he said “There are many things of which a wise man may wish to be ignorant.” In other words, the whole world doesn’t really need to know the nasty details of your latest ailment or how lonely you are since your break-up. Save that for the doctor and your best friend.