Saturday 24 February 2018

How To Make Your Social Media Presence Worthwhile And Stay Largely Out Of Trouble

Originally posted on Beast of Traal.

While there is a school of thought that considers social media updates to be a spontaneous act of free thought and opinion, too many people have suffered in varying degrees by committing blunders online.

I have a simple thumb-rule that I always use before sharing *anything* online. Over time, I’ve managed to go through this set of criteria at a fascinating speed, almost subconsciously, without making it seem like a chore before posting anything online. That, however, may still not insulate me against backlashes or consequences if I had missed on one or more of the criteria in the rush to make a thought public.

See if this 5-point criteria helps you in your social media sharing.

1. The point.

This is the point of why you are sharing whatever you are sharing. It could help build your personal brand – based on some interest that you demonstrate in some topic. You could be simply helping your readers be aware of something as a news breaker. It could display your sense of humor or your perspective on something. It could be an argument you’re putting forward or it could even be you disagreeing with something or someone – both portray a picture of you by the very nature you sharing it online, in public. Are you asking for some information? Have you searched (Googled!) for it yourself before asking? If it is fact-based, chances are, Google would help you even before you ask your readers. If it’s an opinion that you seek, Google could help there too – you could get a perspective on what some people think, via a Google search, and then pose the question to your readers for more opinions.

Evaluate what that update does to you/your personal brand. This is not absolutely necessary, of course – you can be completely spontaneous and share anything without any thought. But be ready to face whatever consequence it may present.

2. Dependencies – people.

Do you know anyone – personally or professionally – who may be affected (in any way – positive or negatively) by your update? In your immediate friends circle or your immediate professional peer circle? Do you know anyone who holds a similar opinion as the one you are about to share? Or someone who you’re sure will be opposing it? What could be consequences with that person/those people? Are you geared to face them? Just take a deeper look at the crux of what you are about to share and try to build its connections with your circle of acquaintances – both casual and serious. For all you know, you may even be sharing something intended to impact (in some way) someone in particular (or a set of people) – that’s perfectly fine, but just make a mental note of the potential consequences.

3. Dependencies – brands/organizations.

Does your proposed update concern the brand/organization you are involved with? Or, if you are in the professional services space, does it concern any of your clients/vendors/partners/associates? Or a competitor, perhaps? Evaluate all these angles very, very carefully. Even an update about a competitor could backfire – may be not directly, but indirectly, in the future since most industries are close-knit; like we love saying in the PR industry, ‘It’s a bloody small world, this media, client-side and agency-side communications!’. Or, the other favorite – ‘Today’s junior correspondent could be tomorrow’s editor!’. Unlike people dependencies, brand and organizational dependencies need to be considered more carefully, since it could involve and affect more than one person, at one stroke.

4. The tone.

It is very difficult to ascertain what could offend who, in the online world. But, depending on your overall image (that you have consistently displayed or consciously created), you could get away with certain things. It all depends on the perceived tone of what you are about to share – it is always better to read it aloud once, if there is even a minor doubt – to read it dispassionately by putting yourself in another pair of shoes. This is as important for allegedly funny stuff as it is for serious opinions. Remember: not just the content, even the tone and expression of that content’s presentation could add up to your image online. This is not to say that you can’t have a go at things generally – you should, but it’s always a good idea to re-evaluate the tone before it is made public, in your own interest.

5. Timing.

Are you there to respond to any reaction arising out of your update? Do you expect any reaction? Or, have you tagged a call-to-action in your update that you are reasonably sure will bring in some response? If so, do you have the time to read/respond? If you don’t, it may bother your readers as much as an email left unanswered in a reasonable amount of time. The timing differs, of course, on the nature of content and the kind of relationship you have with your readers (however small or large they may be), but if you are present to respect their response and engage, chances are you may be appreciated enough with extra attention, in the long run. Engagement, after all, is the hallmark of social media and is something that needs some time allocation.

Image credit: opensourceway

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