You probably can give of an example (or two or three) of someone who got into trouble on social media. It’s easy to say, “That will never happen to me,” but everyone should think about what they post.
Here are three questions you should ask before you hit Share.
1. Why Am I Posting?
With a worldwide audience and the opportunity to speak freely, taking things too far is surprisingly simple. Therefore, question your reasons for posting. Are you chasing likes? Bragging? Stirring up controversy? Criticizing? Complaining? Getting back at someone? If your explanation is less than noble, reconsider. This may be a better conversation to have offline, in-person or not at all. Avoid posting if you feel frustrated, angry or overly opinionated, as these emotions often lead to problems. Your glowing screen may provide a temporary shield from personal interaction, but manners still apply. You are responsible for what you say online just as you would be in a regular conversation. The primary difference is social media has the power to provide a permanent record of your statements for all the world to see. Ultimately, any post reflects you, your ideas and your personal brand. Be authentic, honest and helpful while presenting yourself in a positive light.
2. How Will Other People Respond to My Post?
If your first reaction to this question is a twinge of guilt or regret, stop. The golden rule, treat others as you wish to be treated, applies in real life and in cyberspace. Show respect for others and avoid posts that may offend, embarrass or cause harm. Set boundaries and consider the consequences before you share. Sometimes people misinterpret even seemingly harmless statements. And, don’t put too much faith in privacy settings. Unfortunately, those are not foolproof.
3. What Is My Company’s Social Media Policy?
Organizations use social media policies to protect their reputations and their interests. As an employee and representative of a company, you need to be aware of any corporate guidelines concerning online activity. Employee handbooks may outline this information in detail. Policies may include guidelines for posting information about the organization, instructions concerning connections with clients and customers as well as consequences for breaking the rules. Even if your business doesn’t have specific regulations, common sense still applies. Sharing confidential information, bad-mouthing co-workers or bashing clients are all bad ideas. On the other hand, many businesses encourage employees to share updates, such as product launches and individual accomplishments, on their personal social media feeds to build excitement for the brand. If you are not sure what’s OK and what isn’t, check in with the HR department.
Finally, remember, when in doubt don’t post. Even a single thoughtless comment can have far-reaching negative effects on both your personal life and your career.