What's The Right Attitude In Social Media?
I was reading a great article today written by a friend. She observed that it can be difficult to know what resources are credible on the internet. Soon after that, I received one of those great emails (with plenty of exclamation points!) talking about how the earth isn’t turning and everything you’ve ever been taught is wrong. With a video and everything, so it must be right. Right?
I’ve been seeing a growing trend in social media, especially, where people get all excited about some new thing. They promote it to all their friends, starting an interesting discussion, and it takes off like wildfire. Before you know it, an idea has spread across the planet and everyone’s taking it as fact. We have a “meme” spreading.
Social media is great at this kind of thing.
The problem is, it can damage your reputation – personal and business – to be engaged in this kind of thing. You have to remember three key principles to these technologies:
- It lasts forever
- It spreads MUCH further than you’d think, especially if it’s weird or controversial
- It’s increasingly hard for you to be anonymous
Let’s imagine that you post a comment on a video, something like “you’re an idiot for doing this.” That’s a bit harsh, and probably not something you’d say to the person’s face. Going back to the three principles:
- People will see that comment months or years later. If you regret it next week, too bad.
- Your friends will see it, your customers will see it, a future employer may see it. If you ever take a role in the public eye, it’ll probably come out as political “dirty laundry.”
- People will be able to link it to you, to your company, to your employees, and to your industry.
How do you know how to behave in this environment?
First, talk to people with the same level of politeness and professionalism as you would do face-to-face. Second, act as though hundreds of people are in the room observing what you say. Third, don’t communicate emotional content in written form. And fourth, apologize for mistakes and misunderstandings. Communication is very messy, especially written – few of us are skilled enough to communicate accurately to a broad audience, and people will have interpretations that mystify you.
But go ahead and participate in social media – it builds your reputation and creates relationships.
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