Used properly, social media can teach, make you laugh, improve social skills, reconnect with long lost friends, find a job, grow a business, explore new cultures, build relationships, enhance wellness, save time and save money.
Social media is not only a “real life” but can also enrich your life and enhance productivity. It is a complete myth that you don’t have time for social media, as when used well, more time is created in your busy day. Used improperly, these same facets to life can be adversely impacted. Therefore, the following guidelines are offered to ensure getting the best outcomes from the social media experience.
Control Privacy for Yourself and Others
If you don’t want everyone to know, don’t post it. Without full use of privacy controls, social media posts are likely to land at or around the #1 ranked page for you or others on the Internet. Search engines can then link to employer, family, schools, charitable causes, other people and organizations. Guide yourself accordingly. Privacy controls are extremely but not entirely effective. Every individual has a right to privacy… controlling the perspective of his or her employer, family, neighbor, banker, pastor and any other stakeholder who can form a bias or purport action based upon social media. Every employer has a right and responsibility to protect its intellectual property and reputation. Knowledge of and compliance with your employer's social media policies is essential!
Observe Topic Boundaries and Avoid Negativity
While you cannot create change without stirring the pot at least a little, constant complaining and negativity will hurt your relationships and ability to succeed with audience and credibility.
Do Not Insult or Attack
When you befriend or connect with someone, you imply a social contract of mutual respect and courtesy. Negative energy is now out of bounds. Insulting and attacking your friends in social media not only results in the insult/attack itself, but it catches them with guard down and in a highly public forum. Re-read your comments to ensure they are not misinterpreted. Trust shall be difficult if not impossible to recover. Delete, recant or apologize if something gets by that you regret or did not intend.
Follow the Money for Answers
Nothing in this world is completely “free,” and this is no exception. Each of these sites is costly to develop and operate. Advertisers, membership fees and specific application/gaming fees are popular revenue sources. Ownership of content, development, features control and level of advertising is dictated, of course, by the sponsors of these platforms. Arguments are emerging regarding free vs. paid membership. You may wish to entirely avoid sites pretending to be entirely free, as you are likely to expose yourself to spammers, malware and/or sale of your personal info. We’d rather know who is getting paid while safeguarding our systems and privacy.
Choosing a Social Media Forum
The primary consideration to site choice is the intended use. The first choice is “business” or “personal.” It is easiest and safest to draw a line between the two, although great advantage can be realized by those who learn to successfully mix the two. It is essential to know and adhere to topic boundaries at each site. Research the topics, guidelines, options and expectations to a certain site before you participate. These are available at each site and differ from one site to the next. Knowing helps you select the right forum and keeps your experience on track.
Originally targeted to college students, then high school students, facebook is intended to reconnect or maintain connections otherwise difficult to manage in a busy world. No longer strictly by invitation, features have been changed, removed and added over time. Not originally part of the fabric, businesses are now present, primarily as advertisers to consumers. This site is used for personal relationship building, socialization, reconnecting, reciprocity, a sense of community and meeting new people through gaming, common interest and mutual friends. Age range is unlimited and multi-generational. Social sites such as facebook can provide a forum for busy productive people to enjoy positive energy, wellness and socialization without abandoning a productive life. As with everything, abuse is of course alive and well.
Used entirely with a professional business focus, LinkedIn also began building by invitation only. LinkedIn is designed for business promotion, professional networking, job search, discussion forum and to use business “connections” as a toolset. Specific connections are visible or invisible to others as a matter of individual strategy and privacy setting. Currently both paid and unpaid memberships exist. The extent to which you post on LinkedIn is directly proportionate and related to your professional position. Additionally offering opportunity to showcase company websites, blogs, publications and twitter accounts, LinkedIn currently holds more than 60 million registered users in more than 200 countries.
Used for both personal and business purposes, Twitter ignores relationship building and succeeds or fails based entirely on the quality and keywords of information. “Tweets” are text-based posts of up to 140 characters delivered to “followers.” Account holders can “lock” their timeline for privacy to only followers with some but not entire privacy. Without such lock, a “tweet” can immediately find itself the #1 ranked item by search engine for the author. Re-tweet exposure can be substantial. Twitter offers both facebook and LinkedIn interfaces.
Blogs (Weblogs), Discussion Boards, Forums and More
Endless and constantly emerging/disappearing, the Internet is full of opportunity to comment, blog, post, vote, upload and express yourself. Each individual site is likely to offer description of topic, questions controlled by the site or existing discussion threads to follow. Choose accordingly and stick to the format for the site. Each will likely offer legal disclaimer and instructions. Read them and comply.
What You Should Post/Not Post
Ask 10 people and you shall receive 10 different answers. This is a draw for most social media users and an advantage to the concept. The differences between the posts of one and another users is a matter of among others… personality and timing. Witty banter that insults no one is always welcome. Do not expect to interest everyone with a post and do not expect to be interested with every post you see. Attempt to avoid repetition. What would you say at a party? Who is your audience? Same considerations apply. Be yourself at your best whenever you can. Sites will typically provide discussion forums, content, games and/or applications that are good points of exchange. Most social media is not about the conversation but rather a more brief exchange of ideas. Chime in only as you wish. Sound judgment will help you. If people are interested, they will typically let you know. If not, find something else to say or a new room/time to say it.
Boundaries: Business vs. Personal
Actively mixing business and personal relationships is always a risk and warrants consideration and boundaries. Social media is no exception. The ability to successfully mix the two, however, can be your greatest advantage.
Preparing for and Handling Abuse or Disagreement
The rules for social media are the same as for any communication, in person, written, electronic, or telephone. One great thing about social media is that you can more easily avoid, delay or rehearse your response. Use these opportunities to ensure your message is exactly how you want it before it is out there. When you build quality relationships through social media, you have also likely improved or practiced certain aspects to in-person social skills as well.
Social Gaming Etiquette
Gamers provide a great deal of revenue to social sites, and their contributions to subsidizing everyone’s use should be respected. For businesses emerging on social sites to include facebook, game play can prove a highly effective method of audience building.
Please consider that your gaming friends have little or no opportunity to hide your individual posts without hiding you or the game altogether. Peppering the feed with low value posts impedes another’s ability to find the posts actually necessary to gameplay. Additionally, monopolizing the feed with items of little or no value/interest to others creates the same social impact as monopolizing a conversation. Often, less is more… and quality here typically outweighs quantity.
Game developers –
Remove the temptation to destroy gaming experience by removing the options to do so. Consider controls on frequency and volume of such posts per user. We know you need to promote your game, but you probably wish to keep gamers playing, too, right?
Social Applications, Groups, Polls and Gifts
These items can be great “ice breakers” and turnkey socialization tools. With these items you can reach out to someone without other consideration as to what to say. What users rarely consider is the extent to which profile information is accessed and shared with undisclosed recipients. Consideration should also be given to system performance when these applications are allowed, as they may be running in the background while not visibly in use. It is typically quite easy to de-authorize these applications when no longer desired. It is important to read the disclaimers before using these applications, and it is important to courteously understand why someone may not accept your gift or invitation. This decline is not an indictment of friendship gesture but rather a de-selection of the system performance impact invited by the application. Choose applications carefully, enjoy those you choose, respect others’ rights to choose for themselves, and remember… nothing is free.