The recent EU referendum has utterly polarised our country, giving those with extreme and horrible views the feeling that it is OK to express them on every social media channel. I don’t know about you but I have one acquaintance of a friend of a friend, who regularly comments on said friends posts – adding what I’m sure to him are pearls of the finest wisdom but to the rest of us are the rabid rantings of someone who sits a little to the right of Hitler on the political spectrum. Every time I see one of these comments, I have to remove my hands from the vicinity of my keyboard, count to 10 and resist the urge to fire something back!
As I write this, it’s quite tough to stay on topic and not go roaring off on a complete tangent written in anger (and then regret it when it’s far too late). We’ve all seen examples of terrible faux pas made on social media, who can forget the senior lawyer who complimented a female colleague about her LinkedIn picture and paid the price. Ed Balls got a little bit confused and tweeted his own name and Susan Boyles twitter team created the spectacular hashtag #susanalbumparty to promote her new album - oops.
Social can be a minefield for individuals and brands alike. Throw in a sprinkling of extreme heat-of-the-moment emotion – the human element, the ease of posting and the huge potential reach of anything you post and you have a powder keg waiting to explode, with career ending consequences. As the saying goes "Opinions are like Ar*eholes, everyone's got one and everyone thinks everyone elses stinks!"
To try to counter this I have developed a strict policy of some social for work and some social for friends, and never the twain shall meet!
Twitter – I use twitter as a work tool. I tweet about the sector I work in and use it to interact with others with similar interests, I have even had some success with social selling and finding leads via twitter. In my early days of Twitter use, I tried to mix business and pleasure, tweeting banal and entirely uninteresting updates on my day (who really cares?); the occasional complaint about Great Western Railways and the odd snippet of something interesting I found on line. It didn’t work for me, now I only access Twitter via my work phone and laptop and keep strictly on topic.
Facebook – This is my network for friends and family. My privacy setting are set so that even if my friends share something I post – no one else can see it. If someone mentions me I can decide whether I want the mention to appear anywhere and only my friends can see any personal details. I have also ticked the box that stops search engines outside of Facebook finding me so If you Google me you will not find my Facebook profile, or anything I have commented on.
LinkedIn – It’s a professional network and I use it as such. People can see what I post and share my updates, and consequently I’m aware that I must always think about what I’m writing or sharing. LinkedIn for many is becoming more like Facebook, with “funny” memes, request for sponsorship and the occasional provocative comment written to get a reaction. I thinks it’s important to keep it as a professional network rather than blur the lines…
The others – Google plus is like shouting into the void. I tried Instagram but forgot to tweak my privacy settings and as such my Instagram followers include some of my friends kids, which means I have to be careful, my usual use of Instagram would be to post pictures and comments on things I find funny and I just struggle to engage with it – so you’ll find me but there is nothing to see. Try as I might, I just don’t get Pinterest or Snapchat or any of the others (I’m probably too long in the tooth!)
Social media provides the ultimate temptation to mix business and pleasure, to comment on a strangers (who could be the CEO of one of your clients!) posts as you would a friends and there are so many ways to get yourself into hot water by posting in anger or expressing a view that others may disagree with (Fine with friends – a really bad idea with clients!). You never know who might see your comments, or when they might resurface and bite you on the ar*e!
My advice is silo your social media, choose what to use for business and what to use as your social outlet, understand how the privacy settings work on all the channels you use and do some testing in an anonymous browser window to see if you have got it right. You could even go as far as creating your own personal social media for business policy (tone, focus and regularity for a start)….
….and never ever ever, no matter what the reason, post in anger, or drunk, or on the feed of someone you don't really know! As a rule, if you wouldn't say it to someones face, don't say it at all!