Living in a Social Media glass house

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socialmedia_small.jpgADOTAS — For the last two years, social media pundits have been warning us to make sure that no one uploads and tags photos of ourselves in a drunken stupor, so as not to hurt our chances of landing that coveted job.

But in the last few months, two leading social media pundits have caught themselves in social media of hot water.

In the first example, from a few months ago, a PR executive criticized the corporate home town of one of his major clients on Twitter, and then was called out by someone from that company. In the second example from the last two weeks, a leading social media analyst strongly recommended that his readers ‘stall any additional movement’ regarding the company.

The first example, covered extensively in the media, highlights the openness of information in social media tools like Twitter and the fact that you have to be on your best behavior all the time because you never know when someone is listening. The second example, which is more critical, highlights the abuse of position / power.

With all of us spending more time on Twitter and Facebook and using additional social media tools, how can we avoid gaffs that will hurt out reputation?

1. Put yourself in ‘the other person’s shoes’ – We’ve all been in situations like this. We read a post / message / tweet that is just so dumb or off-message or annoying that we have to say something. STOP. Put yourself in that person’s shoes for a few minutes to try and figure out why they said or did what they did.

I’m a publicist and I recently had a reporter write a story about one of my clients which Ieft me puzzled. After the reporter interviewed my client for 20 minutes, I didn’t understand how the article turned out the way it did (basically, she included nothing from the interview). But then I rehashed some of the conversations I had had with that reporter leading up to the interview and realized that she had been looking for a different angle and that she probably wanted to drop the story all together. It didn’t make me happier about the story, but it was still a positive story about my client.

2. Invoke the 10 second rule (or ‘don’t post / message / tweet when you’re still angry’) – An extension of the first point, this rule has saved me countless times. One of the interesting things about social media is that it gives people the courage / balls / stupidity to say things they wouldn’t say face-to-face. That said, social media also enables taking a breather before responding to someone’s courageous / ballsy / downright stupid post / message / tweet.

When I’m writing a response to someone when I’m angry about something, I either write it in MS Word first, and then copy it, OR if the response is via email (usually a less social media), I’ll save the email in drafts first.

3. Social Networks are glass houses, and you know what they say to people who live in glass houses – Before commenting on something, ask yourself if you really want that comment out there for all to see for eternity. The immediacy of social media can be misleading. It might have taken 10 seconds to write and distribute, but it can last a life time.

I know you’re waiting for some big conclusion, and truth be told, the conclusion is old and boring – be nice and treat others like you’d want them to treat you. I know these lessons are as old as the Bible, but in our 24/7 world of instant online communications, never have these sayings been more true or relevant.

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