By Bryan Thiel (@BryanThiel_88)
Whether you’re an individual or part of a larger business, starting out on social media can be frightening. With so many different tools, trends and traps out there it can be a little overwhelming at first, and slightly imposing to keep moving towards creating your own online footprint. A solid handle on social media platforms and a trust in what they can provide a business with is key for beginners, but as things progress there’s someone else who needs to be able to be trusted.
The person with the keys to the car.
When it comes to keyboards and computers, the only thing that can turn up on the screen is what we put there. We have to type it, we have to link to it, and we have to post it.
That’s where people have found themselves in some trouble since Twitter, Facebook, and other forms of social media became so integral to how we do business. There are things that people would do on their personal accounts that they would never do on a professional account. But despite the care and caution, somehow these things find a way to the internet and scar a company’s image while frightening others in the process.
It was a middle ground I found myself in when I first left school and began breaking into the broadcasting industry. Social media was just beginning to bubble to the surface at this point and provide us with a platform to present readers and viewers with news and information. It was also providing us with a spot to spout off about what was going on in everyones personal lives. As I’m sure anyone has found using social media, it’s very easy to project your day-to-day ‘vocabulary’ onto social media and, as we all know, that isn’t the most professional set of words out there.
So at an early stage in my use of social media, I made a conscious decision to avoid using those four-letter words on Twitter and Facebook, in hopes of maintaining a professional image. At one point I even tried to separate the professional and personal aspects of my life with two Facebook accounts. It worked until I began ignoring the professional one…and eventually forgot the password.
My choices turned out to be solid ones. I have friends and colleagues who some would call ‘loose cannons’ when it comes to posting and responding on Twitter, while others have had solid job interviews dashed by pictures that have found their way to Facebook and Instagram. One friend even found herself on the outside looking in of her dream job, because they had the authority to go through her private messages on Facebook. As you can imagine, what they found there didn’t help her cause.
While all of this worked for me, I had never verbalized my personal ‘rules’; they were always something that had just lived up there in my mind, acting as a guideline before you sent whatever you had to say or show off into the worldwide web. Then somebody did it for me.
Elliotte Friedman is an NHL Insider, formerly for CBC and currently for Rogers Sportsnet. For those that don’t know what that means, he basically uses different ways to report on news and rumours in the NHL before they happen. I was listening to him on the radio one day when he said something that made a lot of sense: take 10 seconds before you tweet.
Pause and think about that for a second. None of us are perfect, and we’ve all probably hit ‘send’ on something before we should have…even if they’re unintentional, mistakes happen. Some have gotten the chance to delete it, but others weren’t so lucky. For some, it may have cost them a job. If you had taken 10 seconds—the time it takes you to wash your hands—to think about what you were posting before you posted it, you wouldn’t have the regret or embarrassment that it caused.
Now, instead of reacting to something immediately, I pause. Before writing some scathing retort to a friend or co-worker, I re-word it a bit and don’t come off so brash. Dial it back a bit if it doesn’t seem worth or necessary for the situation.
It’s really up to you whether or not you create any rules to follow while using social media, because the only one guiding you…is you. But if you establish your own ground rules for yourself on social media and trust in them, then maybe it will be way less scary and easier for someone else to trust you with their business on social media. Maybe that enhances your professional reputation. Maybe you get a promotion or move on to bigger and better things. Or maybe you just protect the people that trusted you in the first place.
And all it took was 10 seconds.