Benjamin Franklin said, "It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it." Calculate in the speed of social media, and one impulsive tweet or Facebook post can plummet a personal or business reputation to the depths.
Recently I wrote about the first key to responsible social media use: protect your privacy. Frankly, all the privacy in the world may not save an errant tweet. Screenshots, copy and paste, and other tricks of the internet can make a private comment public quickly. But, the importance of understanding the role of privacy is critical, and knowing how to manage your settings is necessary.
The next big key to using social media responsibly is learning how to protect your reputation. We've all heard the pithy one-liners that are guidelines for posting:
- Don't post anything you wouldn't want your mother to see. Well, truth be told, some mothers (and fathers) don't have any more sense than a teenager. Bad advice. Some moms might think it's pretty cool to see scantily clad pictures of their daughters online. Have you ever seen Toddlers and Tiaras? Scary moms.
- Don't post anything you wouldn't want your grandmother to see. Your grandmother probably loves you to death, and is very longsuffering about your mistakes. Your picture playing beer pong might not be her thing, but she'll smile and hug you anyway. She doesn't care what you post on social media.
- Don't post anything you wouldn't want a future employer to see. Now we're talking. Unless your future employer is a strip club manager or Deadspin, you probably should keep this one in mind. Here's the visual I like to draw: imagine every job interview you're going to in the future requires you to bring only one thing - a portfolio of everything you've posted online in your entire life. You and your future employer will sit down and look at it together. Now, what do you want them to see? Over 90% of employers search the social media of prospective employees. And, according to a Reppler survey, 69 percent of them have rejected a candidate because of what they found.
Know Your Danger Zones
Know thyself. Do you have a quick temper? Do you have emotional triggers like people getting away with cheating, political causes, mean people, bullying? Try making decisions ahead of time on how to handle each one. Make a social media contract with yourself. Have a friend or colleague witness it. Here are some things you may want to add:
- Leave the phone at home when you go out or leave it locked in your car out of sight.
- Save messages as drafts before you send. Force yourself to put your device down for at least a minute, then go back and read it again.
- If you manage social media for a company, logout of those accounts before you leave the house for recreation or entertainment.
- Don't post when you're emotional: angry, sad, happy, or ecstatic. All these triggers carry chemical inhibitors that may block your ability to think rationally. It may sound okay to you, but to the observer, it may be hurtful, harmful, or hateful.
- Don't read the negative and you won't speak the negative - stay away from sites like Gawker, Bleacher Report, Deadspin, TMZ , and the like. If you do read articles on these sites, do not register a profile on any of these sites. If you're going to read suspect internet material, don't set up an account to do so. Above all, do not comment on a site of this type - it is searchable. Comments on websites are open to the public and your profile is also searchable.
- Take time to deal with emotional triggers ahead:.Practice 140 character responses to emotional situations. Better yet, practice silence.
- Unplug at night. Vow to stay off social media during a time period when you may be tired or need to do other tasks. Don't live life at the mercy of a device. Never check social media under the influence.
- Turn off your notifications and only check your social media at prescribed times.
- Don't defer to checking social media when you are bored. Find another activity to occupy your time.
You only have one reputation. Guard it by learning how to practice safe social.
This entry is an excerpt from the new e-book Practice Safe Social: How to Use Social Media Responsibly to Protect Your Reputation and Build Loyalty by Chris Syme. It is available now on Amazon.com