Social Media has been an integral part of my life ever since my Mom allowed me to create a Facebook page my freshman year of high school. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Webex Social, have completely changed the way I interact with others.
As I make the transition from a collegiate environment to a more professional environment, many interesting points have been brought to mind. I have compiled a list of pointers that I have learned over time and thought I would share them with all of you!
Be Aware of Your Audience:
I like to think of a post on social media as an email to all of your following. Just like an email, a recipient may or may not read your post, and they may or may not be interested in the content of the post.
Generally, whatever someone posts on a social media channel will be available to ALL of their followers unless they specify against this. This means that they either have to only post material that is appropriate for all or monitor their following to ensure that whatever they post is acceptable. This is more applicable to personal accounts as the content on professional accounts will most likely be professional in nature. Sites like Facebook are getting better at giving you tools to provide contents to certain predetermined groups of followers only. For example: they could upload an album of pictures from their family reunion and then share the album only with their “immediate family” Facebook friends group.
Define Your Goals BEFORE Implementing a Social Media Campaign:
This point is something that was heavily stressed in the Cisco Social Media Training and Certification program and I think it is a really good idea.
Whenever someone uses social media, they should have some type of agenda. In high school, one might just be trying to pass the time or stay up to date with who is dating whom. In college, one may be trying to build a network with their peers or discuss plans for Friday night. At a professional level, one may be trying to spread the word about a new service that they are offering or requesting feedback about what the public thinks about certain ideas. Whatever the agenda is, it is quite valuable to identify this agenda prior to the implementation. You see this with most projects. Diving into a project head first without stepping back and looking at what you aim to accomplish first is often a dangerous practice.
The same goes for social media campaigns. By identifying what you aim to accomplish, you are able to for efficiently implement a strategy to accomplish your social media goals.
The Weakest Link Analogy with Professionalism:
A chain is only as strong as the weakest link. I think this common saying applies to how a social media channel is viewed from a professional standpoint.
I believe that a channel is viewed at the level of professionalism as the least professional post. A Facebook page can turn out great weekly content about a company written at a high professional level, but as soon as an inappropriate post is made and someone sees it, that follower will associate the channel with that lower level of professionalism. This just means that, when in charge of a social media account, a professional reputation must be constantly upheld.
Social Media Representing a Something Bigger Than Yourself:
When dealing with social media, there is a huge difference between a personal account and a professional account. With a professional account, the creator is representing a company or a product (in some cases the product being the creator themselves i.e. Linkedin). Where as with a personal account, you have complete freedom over post content. We are seeing more and more incidents today dealing with social media snafus causing major problems.
When watching ESPN, we will often see that a player had impulsively tweeted that he wanted a trade or thought the coach was in violation of some rule which will often set off a chain reaction of events often resulting in disciplinary action all across the board and media backlash. Many companies experience their social media campaigns go horribly wrong due to a misinterpretation on how a specific tactic would be received (see this article for several of these breakdowns http://mashable.com/2012/11/25/social-media-business-disasters-2012/). Social media takes what used to be private interactions and puts them on a pedestal for the entire world to see if they so desire. This can be extremely helpful in some regards but also potentially dangerous.
The bottom line is that, when dealing with a professional social media account that is representative of something bigger than oneself, it is important to be aware of the magnitude and possible ramifications of ones decisions.
Identify a Posting Environment’s Style:
This final point has to deal with posting on an unfamiliar environment on a social media platform.
Not everyone online is interested in holding a professional conversation with you. In modern day internet slang, it is said that there are many trolls out there. A troll is basically someone who posts off topic, offensive, irrelevant, comical, or derogatory comments on a social media post essentially for fun. Some may be surprised that this exists but yes, it is definitely something to look out for. When first encountering an unknown social media environment, evaluating the landscape to see what type of activity is going on there. Say for example that someone searches: “Lawn Care” on Facebook looking to post a serious question about why you are having weeds grow in their lawn. There will probably be some results that consist of pages that are filled with trolls that will not be able to contribute constructive responses to their questions. A good rule of thumb is to look at a few of the past posts and responses and determine if the specific social landscape is appropriate for your needs. Also, if you are engaged by a troll, the best thing to do is just ignore them.
What differences have you noticed between utilizing social media in a professional manor vs. a personal manor? Do you anticipate social media becoming more prevalent in todays society? Do you have any additional observations?