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If you are not currently on social media, I am impressed!…and honestly a little jealous. You probably have a more positive perception of yourself, are less frustrated throughout your day, and have a lot more time on your hands. Although, if you are one of the declining few that have resisted the urge, you are probably still using dial-up internet and a flip phone…and aren’t reading this article anyway!
For the majority of us, we have gotten sucked into the world of likes, thumbs up, hearts, comments, political rants, and cat videos…and it can be overwhelming. “Like” it or not, social media has become the digital fabric that connects us to one another…and if used correctly, can be an incredibly valuable business platform.
ALL SOCIAL MEDIA
Although it would take several articles to cover all the ins and outs of all of the social media outlets vying for your attention, let’s go over some general do’s and don’ts:
- If you are new to the social media world DO start slow. It might be helpful for you to initially just connect with a few people that you trust, and who you know will not judge you if you make any faux pas! Try adding a simple post (e.g., share a link), “liking” some of their comments, sending a direct message, etc. before adding more connections. Sit down with them and ask them whether your engagements came through the way you wanted to put your mind at ease before you fully commit!
- If you have already been in the social media game for a while, DO go into the service settings and see if any cleanup is needed. Are there connections that you have that are consistently a source of stress or frustration with their posts/comments? Are you mistakenly sharing your posts publicly (which may be what you want as a business profile…but not personal)? Are there posts/advertisements that you would prefer not to see again? These can all be adjusted…so take some time every month or two to check to see if things are set up the way you want.
- DO recognize that everything you do/post online is viewable by others…and may continue to live on even after you “delete” it. Make sure you understand who can see your posts/comments (i.e., check the account settings or with social media-savvy friends), and err on the side of caution. Nothing worse than having the wrong people see a private (and potentially embarrassing) comment.
- If you are planning to use social media as a business outlet, try and keep your business and personal engagement separate. In other words, DON’T mix business with pleasure if you can help it. If you have two profiles (personal & business) that you are going to manage, be sure to confirm which one you are using when posting/commenting. For example, you may have someone make a personal comment on a business post (e.g., “Hey Brian! Are you guys going to the game tonight?”), and now this is being seen by all of your business contacts (who I am guessing don’t need to know what you are doing that night). You might want to consider deleting those posts…and certainly don’t make it worse by responding to their comment.
Although there are a number of social media outlets in existence (and more developing daily), let’s see if we can overview the key players in the business world…and highlight some specific dos and don’ts of engagement.
LinkedIn: Although it may not be the sexiest of social media platforms (and may not have the broad marketing appeal you are looking for), LinkedIn is specifically designed to foster professional relationships, employment opportunities, and the sharing of industry information…making it a safe outlet for business ventures. Businesses and business persons should create an account and begin connecting to others in the field. Share articles and ideas, post job opportunities within your company, and provide professional comments on the work that others are doing. Nice, safe, professional social media.
- DO add a (professional) profile picture. Although you may think that you are being “safer” by not displaying your picture, potential business contacts and employers may view your profile as fake or “sketchy” if you use the default silhouette.
- DO “connect” with those that you feel are (or could be) of similar professional minds. Unlike some of the other social media outlets, connections are not typically limited to those that you know personally (or even have met before), but rather those that you feel might appreciate your professional posts (and vice versa), may have an interest in jobs in your company, or may have opportunities of interest for you in the future. So, “connect” away!
- DON’T ruin your current gig! This is a great service to search for new job opportunities…but if you are currently employed, make sure the engagement you have online doesn’t accidentally let your current employer know you are searching! Updating your profile, “liking” certain pages, or posting comments could all give the impression that you are in the market. Great for future opportunities…but consider who else might be seeing it.
- DO comment on new job/work anniversary announcements (in an appropriate way…see below). LinkedIn will notify you of these. Although if you want your comment to stand out, try not using LinkedIn’s suggested comments (i.e., “Congratulations”, “Happy Birthday”)…as your contact will get a bunch of those.
- DON’T get personal. Given that LinkedIn is geared towards professionals or professional connections, try to engage (e.g., comments, posts) in a professional manner. If you want to talk personally with one of your contacts, send a private message.
Twitter: Originally started in 2006 as a social messaging/texting service, it has become an incredibly popular service for sharing quick/short updates/statements (aka, tweets) with the world. Originally limited to 140 characters, the service and character count (now 240) have grown significantly. Whether you are posting as an individual or business, this is a great way of providing your followers with quick, regular information (e.g., hiring, office closures, sales/specials).
- DO try using Twitter as a news source. “Follow” the local news outlets, sports channels, etc., as reporters are likely to send out tweets faster than their full news stories. No guarantee that the information will be accurate (as they sometimes “jump the gun” and tweet before all research has been done), but as long as you know that you may need to verify the information later…it can give you quick access to important info.
- DO follow some people/businesses that will provide some levity in your day (as the news/rants may be depressing). My suggestion? If you are a dog lover, check out “Thoughts of Dog” (@dog_feelings). The tweets (provided from the dog’s perspective…bad grammar and all) will definitely strike a chord and light up your day. Here is a tweet from 3/5/20:
“I know you put a pill. in my rolled up cheese slice. i’m not mad about it. i would simply appreciate it. if you would be honest with me next time”
- DO share (aka, retweet) tweets that others have posted, as long as you “support it”. Although it may feel like plagiarism, it is ok! If you use the retweet button, the tweet will show up under your profile, but will still show the original author. This is a great way of showing those who follow you/your business what you like and believe in (without having to be creative yourself!).
- Given that tweets are short and sweet and can be sent out quickly, it is easy to be careless with them. DO take your time and proof what you are tweeting. Sending a text with misspellings and grammar issues may not be a big deal…but when your tweet is seen by all your followers, it can provide a bad look (especially if you are using your business account).
- DON’T be afraid to “unfollow” someone. In fact, you should probably go through and do some purging every once in a while on all your services so that you are not spending too much time scrolling through posts that you don’t want to see. On Twitter, people/businesses have so many followers that they won’t know/take offense if you stop following.
- DO try and use hashtags (or at least understand them). Hashtags (those words/statements followed by number signs…e.g., #gfbconnect) that are often added to the end of tweets. Although many will use these as additional information for their tweet (e.g., I am enjoying writing this article! #ArticleGettingLong #NeedToWrapItUp), the true purpose of these hashtags is to provide keywords for your tweets so that it will show up if someone was to search for them in the future. For example, if you are promoting a special event in business with a series of tweets, adding the same hashtag at the end of each tweet will allow someone to see all of them by searching for the hashtag.
Facebook: I probably don’t have to tell you much about this service, as it is huge, and I am sure you either have experience with it or have heard a lot about it. Given the number of people that are on Facebook, it is a great way to connect with those that you don’t see in person on a regular basis and share memories, photos, well-wishes, etc. However, this popularity has also created somewhat of a “wild west” of social media, where seemingly anything goes, and you can easily find yourself making missteps or falling down the rabbit hole!
- DON’T have private conversations in public timelines. Obviously, this happens all the time (sometimes on purpose)…but if you are using Facebook as a business outlet, doing so can come back to bite you. For example, if you post something personal on a friend’s timeline, each of their friends can see it (and in turn, comment on it). They comment back, you respond, etc…and the next thing you know, you have had a full-on conversation with them that everyone can see (and may result in an argument with someone you don’t know). There can be some fun banter, but might not be the “business look” you are hoping for. Once you see that you are discussing something that might not be for public consumption, try sending them a private message (e.g., Messenger, text).
- DON’T over-comment. Social norms would suggest that if a “friend” were to call you and tell you something, you would provide some response to them, right? Well, this isn’t always the case (or hope) on social media. Many people will post on social media to pass along thoughts/information…but don’t really want to have a conversation about it (at least not in public). So, if you comment on their post, try not to force them to reply to your comment (e.g., asking a question). Provide your comment of support or reaction to the post, but if you want to discuss, try and private message.
- DO be careful when “reacting” to posts/comments. When you see a post or comment that you want to quickly respond to, Facebook allows you to click one of the preset reactions or emotions (e.g., Like, Heart, Laughter, etc). Seems harmless enough, and a nice option to have when you don’t know if you want to actually comment…but what kind of emotion do you show when someone posts about a family member just passed away? Certainly don’t want to “like” or “laugh” at that…a “heart” would be nice, as long as the recipient doesn’t think that you love the fact that the family member passed! So, you might do a quick check to see how others have reacted, and maybe follow their lead.
- Given that you are required to have a personal Facebook page in order to create a business page…you have the ability to interact with Facebook as either yourself OR your business. DO make sure that when you engage (e.g., “reacting”, commenting, posting), you confirm who you are representing (you or your company). If you are representing your personal profile, those comments/reactions/posts will show up with your profile pic…and vice versa. So, give a quick glance to the profile pic in the top left (under the Facebook logo) and confirm who you are representing..and engage appropriately!
Social media can be an extremely helpful outlet to receive news, connect with family & friends, share ideas, and even find a new job…but choose your posts/comments/likes wisely, as your reputation can depend on it!
Oh, and one more thing…did you happen to read last month’s technology article (“Passwords. Can’t live with them…Can’t live without them…Can’t remember them!”)? If so, were you able to figure out the password riddle?
Hint: The password represents a combination of a movie quote, the ‘author’ of the quote, and day of the year you would probably see the movie. Oh, and a decoder ring might help!
The answer is….drumroll….
Be sure to drink your Ovaltine! Little Orphan Annie, 12-24.
(the secret message from Little Orphan Annie that was decoded with Ralphie’s secret decoder ring in A Christmas Story……which we know plays over and over every Christmas Eve, 12-24!)
If you figured that out, BRAVO! If not, I am guessing you probably won’t forget it now…which means I have to go and change my password now.
-Brian Jackson, PhD
Professor and Technology Enthusiast