5 Suggestions for Avoiding Social Media Blunders

Social Media.  Personally, I’m a big fan and huge user!  Wrong or right, it is shaping how we communicate as a society.  More importantly for us, it’s shaping how we communicate as leaders.  Being leaders means that people watch our actions closely and social media now gives those watchers a magnifying glass.

As Part 2 in our series Social Media and You (the Leader), I wanted to get a little more personal and talk about how to avoid some of the missteps.

For myself, I’m engaged on lots of different platforms (e.g., Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Linkedin, etc.).  You may be different, but chances are, you’ve ventured out and tried at least one platform (most likely Facebook or MySpace).  I’m generally pretty open in my use of social media, but am extremely cognizant of whom I’m engaging with and how.  I also know how to use the features and tools on the sites that I participate on.  AND, I am very mindful of the content I post.

Leaders be ready!  How you engage is really up to you, but navigating the social media minefield requires a little bit of thought and discipline.

Here are 5 practical tips to help you out:

  • LEARN TO DRIVE.  Think of social media platforms like a car.  Every car is different (so are social media platforms).  Every car has different features (so do social media platforms).  You have to learn the ‘rules of the road’ to drive successfully (the same is true for social media platforms).  You can crash in a car and can cause injury or damage (as you can on social media platforms).  A car can provide great freedom, efficiency, and opportunity in one’s life (as can social media platforms).   The key is to learn how to use your “car” effectively.  Doing so will improve the chance that you don’t make inadvertent mistakes (like posting things to the wrong audience).  Learn how to set the privacy and security features.  Learn what other’s see when you post.  Learn how to use filters and groups.  Learn how to retract posts.  Learn how to use the features of the platforms correctly.  When you learned to drive, you probably had someone instruct you.  Social media platforms all have tutorials – use them wisely.
  • DEFINE YOUR PURPOSE for using social media.  Know why you are there.  Are you using it for professional purposes (e.g., job hunting, networking, relationship management, etc.)?  Are you using it for sharing your latest personal thoughts and ideas?  Are you using it to promote your business?  Keep in touch with friends and family?  Whatever your desire, be disciplined in your use and be cautious in mixing purposes.  Sharing the wrong content with the wrong people can have disastrous consequences.  For example, posting a rant about how bad [insert your rival college football team here] did this last year on Linkedin, probably won’t help you get that new job (especially if the recruiter went to school there). Define how you want to engage and why and then stick with it!
  • KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.  Hopefully, from the previous point, you’ve defined the people that you want to engage with.  Once you’ve defined how you want to use a social media site, only invite and accept invites, friend requests, or whatever else from those that fit that definition.  If you want Facebook to be a place for you to share info with family and real friends, then do that.  If you want LinkedIn to just be business contacts, then do that.  But be prepared to “ignore” or “reject” some friend requests from people that don’t fit “the profile”.  We’ll tackle this in the next post.
  • KEEP IT CLEAN.  Treat anything that you want to put in to Facebook or any other social media site like it is PUBLIC information!  Don’t ever think otherwise.  Even with the strictest of privacy settings in place, don’t ever think that you’re only sharing information with your “best buddies”.  Others that have access to your info can share, retweet, repost, link to, copy, or “screen shot” your information and may unintentionally (or intentionally) share information that you don’t want shared with others.  This is one of the most frequent landmines that I see on a regular basis.  Rule of thumb:  Don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want your parents, pastor, or boss to read.
  • QUARREL NOT!   For all the reasons listed in the last point, Facebook or other sites are not the place to “air your dirty laundry” or someone else’s.  Just like in any other form of communication, there are right and wrong ways to do things.  Personally, I’m a believer that if you and I have an “issue” then I am going to come and talk to you about it.  Not email it, voice mail it, text it, or heaven forbid – post it on Twitter.  Plus, it makes you look like a jerk.  If someone goads you, then let it go or take care of it “offline”.  Don’t fall in to the trap of public self-destruction.

In the next post, we’ll talk a little about how employees and co-workers play in to your social media use.

What tips do you have for avoiding social media blunders?

Enjoy!

~J

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2 Responses to 5 Suggestions for Avoiding Social Media Blunders

  1. Dwane says:

    Really good stuff Jason, this is advise I believe every level of our environment could use. Too often we have associates get into trouble for not understanding the scope and implications of their actions in this social environment. Our HR team should consider sending something to all with a similar caution.

  2. Jason says:

    Thanks Dwane. I agree. This post and the previous can be applied across the board (not just for leaders). My focus has been predominately on those in leadership positions, because often times they are the ones whose mistakes become much more public and/or damaging. I was talking with one of our lawyers today and my jaw dropped open at a couple of the examples he provided about social media. So, Facebook and Tweet carefully! Thanks again for your thoughts! ~J

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