The internet was once regarded as an “other” space that existed beyond the reaches of “the real world.” What happened on the Internet wasn’t to be taken seriously–it wasn’t real. This rather strange concept of the Internet is now changing, due in large part to the rise of social media.
While some continue to miss the Tweet, there is a growing consensus that what is said or done online has a direct and measurable impact on the physical, tangible world.
And all of this mass communicating we’re doing, every think-piece, Tweet, status update, and picture we post, is being cataloged–it’s been said that history is now recorded faster than it’s actually taking place. The Internet is one large encyclopedia of the human experience, and unlike the hardcover collection on our shelves in the basement, it cannot be destroyed by flood nor fire.
Diamonds and your social presence are forever.
In other words, navigating an online presence is hard, and two social media sites in particular get people into the most trouble.
On Facebook, keeping your personal and professional self separated is a must. For many of us, even before we considered our future careers, Facebook was around to make sure we wouldn’t have one. Depending on how long you’ve been active on the site, Facebook tends to be a place of old college buddies, new babies of those old college buddies, and beer. Probably of you consuming it. With your old college buddies.
Instead of mixing business and pleasure on your profile, create a business page for your firm. This way you can guarantee that what you post is professional and in keeping with your business brand. Most of your clients aren’t interested in seeing you in your college glory days. In that same vein, restrict access to your profile to only include friends–they’re less likely to tattle on you if you make a blunder.
Twitter’s an odd bird. If you’re a professional, it likes a mix of business speak; unrelated yet interesting articles from around the web; and the odd pithy personal update. Unless you have something akin to an obsession with declaring the veracity of unicorns, it’s not imperative to maintain a personal Twitter account as well as a professional one. If you do have said passion, create a cleverly disguised pseudonym and Tweet to your heart’s content–just remember which account you’re logged into.
While the readership of Twitter is generally accepting of a variety of posts, the deceptively open and on-the-fly nature of it makes it prime real estate for gaffs. You may be Tweeting from the comfort of your own home, but your Tweet is out roaming the world. And once it’s out, it’s almost impossible to stuff that bird back in the cage.
The big takeaway?
While it’s true there’s a potential landmine waiting to explode with every social media post, it’s also true that how we conduct ourselves online shouldn’t be any different than how we conduct ourselves in person. Unless what you have to say qualifies for the Whistleblower Protection Act, if you wouldn’t say it out loud, don’t say it online.
Absolutely speak to your audience, but also give thought to the possible reaction outside of it. And before you wade into whichever moral issue is up for debate, do a quick cost-benefit analysis to determine whether your opinion is worth the potential loss.
Oh, and don’t forget to have fun!