Social media - it's no joke

I like social media. I use LinkedIn to keep up with professional issues and to find out what my contacts are up to; Facebook to keep up with my friends; and Twitter for a mixture of both. Some of the forums I visit not only interest and engage me in all kinds of topics but also astound me with the level of misinformation, abuse and general ignorance that can be found on line.

Social media is a powerful tool and one that needs to be used carefully. I may have mentally divorced LinkedIn and Facebook in the way that I use them but I don’t kid myself that anyone who reads my entries on one cannot see what I am saying on another.

A wise person once said that it would be stupid to publish anything on any site that you would not be happy to see printed in a newspaper and, in these times of “multi platform” publishing, that was sage advice. If I could remember who said it, I would attribute it to them.

It seems that almost every week there is news of someone being hoist by their own petard through careless comment on social media sites – in the last two days we have seen the man who sent an allegedly “menacing” tweet about blowing up Robin Hood Airport make a successful appeal against his conviction, albeit after two years of having to deal with the consequences, and the arrest of a 17-year-old who posted an abusive tweet about Olympic diver Tom Daley.

My own simple do’s and don’ts are not exhaustive but just a few points to think about:

Do

  • Research people with whom you have any kind of business relationship. This is not as sinister as it sounds but means that you can note their interests and concerns and find out what makes them tick.
  • Keep up to date with issues for your industry. There is any number of special interest groups and joining relevant ones can be extremely informative.
  • Contribute to discussions if you have something to say. Such comment can help to position you as someone of interest and/or knowledge in your target sectors.
  • Remember that competitors will check your social media accounts as well as your friends, connections or followers. If you become newsworthy for any reason, good or bad, your accounts will also be a first port of call for journalists.

Don’t

  • Disparage competitors, even if they disparage you!
  • Be glib about news stories – although thoughtful comment is positive
  • Use status updates to advertise your products or services – it is a turn-off for readers who will probably simply block your posts. There are ways to advertise on social media but that’s a whole different story.
  • It should be obvious but swearing is not acceptable
  • Post after several glasses of wine – it loosens the wheels of the brain and once you’ve hit “post” it is too late!