The still unfolding scandal surrounding Rep. Anthony Weiner’s tweeting a lewd photo of himself offers important lessons on basic do’s and don’ts of using social media. By no means would I call myself an expert on social media etiquette, but this is a good time for all of us to remember a few general rules before publishing our next post or tweet.
Basic do’s and don’ts:
1) Let the technology work for you and not against you:
This means you must understand your own needs first. Ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish, what messages you are trying communicate, and why?
2) Understand the technology:
Social media is powerful, but also perilous. Remember, in recent months, social media has fueled political revolutions and also tarnished some reputations. It takes a lot more than enthusiasm to get coherent thoughts in 140 characters or less – think Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who was voted the worst twitter user by the tech blog Gizmodo, or the backlash against the fashion company Kenneth Cole for joking about the Egyptian uprising when tweeting about their inaugural spring collection. Each type of technology has its own etiquette and rules of engagement. Understand what’s specific to your medium of choice.
3) Understand your audience:
Your audience is your target, which brings me to another point. As one Cairo activist pithily described it, “We used Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.” 1
4) Be your own editor:
If you are not comfortable having your tweets or posts displayed on a billboard in Times Square, it is probably a good idea to file away or delete that thought. If you tweet or post, “I don’t want to come to work today,” you may be echoing the sentiments of many of your co-workers, but by putting it out there – publicly for everyone to see – you are the one in your supervisor’s cross-hairs. And that supervisor may not want to work with people he believes are unmotivated or apathetic.
There are no personal or private exchanges in social media – social media involves multiple avenues for social interactions! Even private settings on Facebook are not truly private.
More do’s and don’ts forthcoming. How well are you managing your social media activity?