Like children with a shiny new toy, adults introduced to social media jumped in and started playing: posting personal photos to Facebook, accepting friend requests from long-lost high school pals and checking into every location. Suddenly, users got an inside look into the lives of people they hadn’t connected with in years. But unlike a new toy, social media didn’t come with any real instructions. Users unwrapped it and off they went.
Without guidelines on how to use social media, disaster is just a tweet away. Many people—and companies—have found this out the hard way. Embarrassing gaffs, impulsive rants and misguided comments are evident across all platforms.
What you post on social media is out there forever. The internet never forgets; a selfie posted after a night on the town or a tweet about a colleague can cause more damage than you think. It’s dangerous to assume that privacy settings protect you. Even if you have locked down your settings, you can guarantee someone who is not directly connected to you will find your content. All it takes is one of your “friends” sharing a screenshot.
Just like the law, what you say on social can and will be held against you. Your future boss, clients, partners, voters and vendors are watching. A good rule, whether you are engaging on social media for personal use or business use, is: If you wouldn’t say it in front of your boss or your mother, you shouldn’t post it online.
With so many companies supporting bring-your-own-device initiatives, it’s now more important than ever that your company create a clear social media policy for employees. Your employees are representatives of your brand, and in business, perception is everything. To protect yourself from the embarrassment of a social media misstep, create a policy that clearly states what you expect from your employees when it comes to social media use. Set clear boundaries, especially for those who are integral to your brand-building process.
In this world of connectivity, how connected are we, really? Has the word “connected” lost its meaning? With our ability to connect to anyone, anytime, anywhere through social media, the term has been watered down. Think about how many of the generic “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” invitations you receive each month. Very few of them are from people you would have connected with outside of social media.
Before social media, you would not have dreamed of asking a new acquaintance to buy something from you just minutes after you met. Just like offline networking, building relationships online follows the same basic etiquette rules. The following are a few to keep in mind: