For social media users who think they can write or post whatever they want and maintain control of it — think again. More than any other medium — telephone, letters and e-mail — social media can be incredibly risky. Whatever is written in any social media network can be broadcast worldwide, is archived forever and can have an impact — potentially detrimental — well beyond the intended audience.
“Many people understand how to use social media and what it can do for them, but do not necessarily understand the pitfalls,” says Randall Craig, author of Online PR and Social Media. “Like in any real social setting or relationship, good manners can go a long way.”
Craig suggests being mindful of these potential potholes and social gaffes:
• If you are upset about something that has been written, and you know the person who wrote it, call them and ask them to retract. The last thing you want is a public “flame war.”
• Do not post pictures of yourself that could be embarrassing at a future point. It is easy to be disqualified from jobs based on inappropriate Facebook pictures or comments. Use this test: if your mother or manager would approve, then it is probably okay to post.
• Do not ask others for recommendations on LinkedIn unless you are sure they will agree. If you are unsure, call them and have a telephone conversation first.
• Be careful of flooding your “friends” with too much information in status updates. They will eventually tire of it and disconnect from you.
• Do not gossip about third parties (a boss, friends, etc.), even if it is supposedly “private.” They will eventually see it and you will be terribly embarrassed — and/or fired from your job.
• Social media is a connection to another person — not their wallet. If you abuse your connection by always trying to “sell” your stuff, it reflects poorly on you.
• When you comment on your friends posts, remember that other people (their family, co-workers, boss, etc.) may read them. Inappropriate comments can cause problems for them — and you.
• Be careful about posting photos of other people; they may not wish others to see them portrayed that way, or they may be highly sensitive about it.
• If you quote someone else on your blog, or if you refer to information you saw on Twitter or elsewhere, acknowledge (or “retweet”) the source with a link and their name. Otherwise it is stealing.
• Do not forget that not everyone is on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and the myriad of other social networks. If you are trying to reach out to your community, do not forget those who are not fully connected. In addition to using social media networks, picking up the phone or sending a quick note to your contacts will ensure that everyone is included.