SRSLY: My Rules For Properly Using Social Media Tools

When you’re an extra (or background performer) in a movie, they don’t want you to have neon pink hair. The reasoning behind that is probably pretty easy to understand: they don’t want you to take attention away from what is going on in the foreground. They want you to blend in and be a living, breathing prop. You’re basically set decoration.

So what does that have to do with social media and networking? Well in this, you WANT to have pink hair. When someone looks across the vast crowd of people in drab clothing, it’s going to be that bright pink splotch of hair that gets their attention. So when you’re properly marketing yourself, you not only want to be the one with pink hair, you will be.

Here, in no particular order other than they’re the order that they popped into my head, are the things that are important to keep in mind:

1. Don’t overshare, be it personal or professional information. My friends know that I am on Facebook frequently. I have my default filter set so only friends and family on a particular list see my posts. It’s important to learn, understand and use these tools! Filters are possibly the most important things to know how to use if you post frequently. For example, my mother can log in and see every little thing I post. She can see that I am eating nachos for breakfast. She can see that it’s raining out and I’m worried that the pink dye in my hair might get wet and stain my shirt pink if I go outside. She can see the funny video of dancing cats that I linked to. She can even see that I’m going to karaoke later tonight and am looking for someone to come with me. This is because I have her on this special filter that sees every time I post. However, if you aren’t this filter, you don’t see it unless I specifically post it to the group in which I’ve placed you. If you’re a friend who does a lot of work as an extra on movies and you’re on my ‘Extras’ list, you’d see that two days ago, I was looking to see who else was booked for the George Clooney movie that was filming downtown so I would know who would be there with me. If you’re on my ‘Roller Derby’ list, you’d see that I found this awesome link of a jammer mohawking through a pack during a jam. The two groups wouldn’t have any interest in the other group’s intended post. My derby friends wouldn’t understand my question if base camp is also where we’re parking for that day, just as my extra friends would probably think a mohawk is a hairstyle. This sort of filtering is useful not just for groups of friends, but also different professional groups as well.

People are often excited about things they are working on. You made an absolutely amazing interface for a game and you want to share. That’s great! But your employer who contracted you to create this might want to keep it under wraps as part of a marketing campaign that’s coming out in a few weeks. Spilling the beans? Not such a great idea anymore, is it? So just pause first and ask yourself: Is my audience really going to care about this information? If the answer is yes, ask yourself: Should I be sharing this information? Is it, in fact, mine to share? If the answer is still yes, go ahead and post it to your heart’s content. Just remember that sometimes, less is more.

Also, remember that not everyone that may see your information/pictures/posts is a friend. It was quite an eye-opening experience when I was researching headshot information for my niece and nephew and came across pages that had lists of things not to do in a child’s headshot because they were potential fetish poses for pedophiles. I had no idea any of that existed. Since then, despite my private Facebook page being, well, private I also changed it so the only people who can see the gallery that contains pictures of my nieces and nephews are on my ‘offline friends and family’ filter list. Protect yourself. Protect your family. Be smart!

2. Douse the flames before they begin. Let’s say that I was laid off after 12 years at the company. I’d been treated poorly while there and each day was more miserable than the last. Though I’d been looking for a new job, being let go was a surprise when it happened and left me angry. So what should I do? Well, taking to Facebook, Ning, LinkedIn and Twitter might seem like a great and easy way to voice my frustration and cast damnation onto my former manager and company might feel good, sort of like a remote slashing of the tires or TPing the front lawn, but it’s really not. Even if you post it and immediately regret it and take it down, it’s pretty likely that someone somewhere has seen it and it could potentially live forever. If something happens or goes wrong, be it personally or professionally, you probably don’t want to engage in flame wars or start ranting and raving online, even if it’s behind a cloak of anonymity. Once a friend posted he was having a bad day. I posted a response saying I hope it got better and when I saw him next in a couple of days, I’d give him a hug if that’d help. Someone on his list that I had never met went off on me for ‘messing with a married man’ and then said some pretty ugly things, both to my friend and myself. Now imagine that I’m friends with a recruiter. I post on my page ‘Wow, this Joe Bob Uniquelastname guy just tore into me for no reason!’ and my recruiter friend sees it and goes ‘Wow, I have a Joe Bob Uniquelastname’s resume right in front of me. Guess I won’t be calling him!’ Sure, that’s a pretty coincidental situation, but the reality is that you never know what’s going on that you don’t see. Don’t ever give anyone fodder to do that to you. I recently found out that a high school friend I still talk to married the cousin of a friend I had made several months before. They found the connection when my high school friend mentioned something in passing about me and my new friend laughed and said that it sounded like this girl she knew, then the connection was made. That was a positive connection — don’t ever give anyone reason to come up with a negative connection.

3. Follow up. It seems like a great idea, you take to your favorite social media tool (or tools) to find new connections for your network. It could be a professional one, it could be that you’re looking for recommendations on someone to steam clean your living room carpet. Networking is all about making connections. So let’s look at this from a professional standpoint: You see that you have a friend who is connected to someone that you really want to know. Maybe they’re a social media guru and you want to break into the social media scene. Maybe they just wrote an article about the new CMS that came out and you want to pick that person’s brain. For whatever reason, you really want to meet this person, so you ask your mutual friend to introduce you. This is great! But the introduction is made and you have meanwhile found the information you wanted to ask that person about and it sort of falls by the wayside. You never truly connect. This leaves a bad impression and in this world of easy access to information, you never want to leave someone with the bad taste in their mouth when they think about you or hear your name. It might not even be a conscious thing on their behalf, they might say ‘I remember that name. Don’t remember why. I think maybe we were introduced once or something?’ You’d rather bring to mind ‘Oh! I know her! Sheila introduced us once and we had this great exchange about a new CMS that came out and how it measured up against some of the standards we’d both been using.’ Sure, it might all be opinion-based and not fact-based, but in the world today, opinion and impressions are what count the most. And if you do follow up with someone and something comes of it, be sure to thank them. Don’t ever leave it open for interpretation! It can be as easy as a thank you tweet, a LinkedIn recommendation or even a good old fashioned thank you in email, over the phone, in person or even a hand-written note. Don’t ever underestimate the importance of a thank you!

4. Learn how it works. It’s always cringe-worthy when you see someone who is obviously starting out on a new social media or online platform and has no clue how to make things work. This is even worse when there are help files and sometimes even entire sites devoted to learning to use the new medium. You probably aren’t going to fool anyone by trying to fake it. It’s in your best interest to make sure you learn to use the tool before you actually attempt using the tool.

5. Spell it out. Do not, and I repeat DO NOT, ever use chat/text speak in email. In fact, if you can avoid using it while texting, that’s even better. I admit, this is really a personal peeve of mine more than anything, but the truth is, I lose a lot of respect for people who use text-speak. I’m not talking LOL or 🙂 or any of those, I’m talking shorting ‘you’ to ‘u’ and ‘two/too/to’ to ‘2,’ etc. Seeing these in an actual email is inexcusable.

He's got the whole world in his hands.

He's got the whole world in his hands.

6. Just because you drink the Kool-Aid doesn’t mean everyone else does. My friends know that in my eyes, Joss Whedon is akin to a superhero. To a godlike creature with the power to make everything witty and awesome. But ya know what? Quite a few of my friends think he’s overrated. They don’t get the awesomeness that is Joss and that’s okay. While every so often I am happy to share a new link to a really funny music video based on one of his works, my every post is not about him.

Try some variety in your posts. Try to give people more than just one flavor. Sure, you might be known as the go-to person on all things about an obscure band from the Netherlands or something, but wouldn’t you rather cast a wider net and share back and forth about other areas of your life as well? Appeal to more people and more people will find you appealing.

7. Like to ‘like’ too much? You don’t need an itchy trigger finger when it comes to hitting the ‘like’ page. A lot of businesses are using the Facebook ‘like’ feature to generate word-of-mouth business and advertising. After all, social media is a great tool for advertising when done properly. However, there is nothing that annoys me more than going to a friend’s page and seeing them having ‘liked’ 30 things in the past 2 hours. When someone who hardly ever hits that like button finally clicks on it, it’s going to have more impact on me than the person who does it 15 times an hour. Yes, I admit, this is really a personal thing that might not hold true for other people, but if it does hold true for me, it stands to reason that it holds true for other people as well.

So these are just some of the things I personally keep in mind as my rules for using social media tools. What rules come to mind for you?