How do you know when you've stepped over the line on social media? When it comes to tricky subjects and taboos in social media, there are four important checkpoints you can use ahead of time to make sure your post won't offend your wider audience.
First, what is a tricky subject? Politics. Religious beliefs. Music tastes. Wealth and poverty. Health issues (cancer, obesity, eating disorders). Stupid jackass stunts and jokes. Add your own to the list. Be careful with these subjects. My advice is always stay away unless you are defending someone who has been wronged.If you have to get involved, don't criticize people who are offensive, defend the one being criticized.It's a good rule never to go after anyone on social media.
What is a taboo? Something to stay away from. Wise people don't go there. Race. Sexual behavior. Gambling and drinking (attention students and coaches). Guns and weapons. Drug use. Gender-related humor. Poking fun at the disadvantaged or handicapped. Just don't do it.
To avoid tricky subjects and taboos in social media, here are four checkpoints you should use before pressing the send button on that social media post:
1. Remember the larger audience. I like to define the larger audience primarily as two degrees of separation to keep it easy to understand: your followers and your followers' followers. Many of your posts will reach more people, but this is a good illustration to start with. Inside humor is nonexistent on social media unless your accounts are private and you approve only your friends. Your comment may not offend your friends, but it may turn a large group of your followers against you. Picture the demographics (age, gender, economic status, political affiliations, etc.) of your followers and test your post's offensive potential against the whole group.
2. The cause you represent and your personal beliefs are not the same thing. One of the biggest dangers (especially on Twitter) is what I call "stream of consciousness posting." Some people have a habit of blurting out (online) every thought and activity of the day. Be aware that people who follow you because of a cause (sports team, school teacher, coach, director of an organization) may not share your beliefs even though they share an affinity for your cause. Your objective should always be to create advocacy and loyalty, never to polarize or shock people. Weigh your posts carefully. Every time you press send, a brick in the building of your personal brand goes into place.
3. Listen before you talk. Get to know what your followers think. This will go a long way towards helping you build better relationships with your fans and understanding what might offend them.
4. Be careful what you retweet and share. Even though you didn't post it originally, you become one with the retweet or share. Your followers will identify you with whatever you post.
Learning to practice safe social means understanding tricky subjects and taboos. Tread carefully, my friend, and consider these four guidelines before you press send.
This is an excerpt from the new book Practice Safe Social by Chris Syme.