It is a PR professional’s top priority to make sure that all information presented about, and by, a client is sending the right (and appropriate) message. In the age of social media, it is all too common for an individual or a brand to present messages that are not conducive to the image it wants to maintain, or that is offensive or harmful to its audience. This can turn into a public relations nightmare and can tarnish the person’s or the brand’s reputation. That’s where we, the PR gurus, come into play. We work to prevent these problems from happening in the first place, but then we are ready to react appropriately on behalf of our client should an issue arise. It’s our job to deal with such situations, and we do it well!
Yes, we are able to recognize when an individual or a company posts a questionable photo and caption on Facebook or writes an insensitive tweet. We know where they went wrong, and how they should try to resolve the problem. But what about when it comes to our own social media presence? Are we always presenting ourselves with poise, dignity and respect to our audiences? Here are a few rules of thumb regarding being appropriate on social media platforms, especially when the line between being professional and being personal can get blurry:
- You have your right to free speech, but be mindful when putting your personal thoughts and opinions on the Internet. State your own points of view, but never attack others’ – you never know who you might offend with whatever “clever” political statement you decide to make while watching The State of the Union address.
- Don’t go overboard. I have been guilty of this a few times – when Auburn lost its bowl game over the holidays, I could have spoken my mind about it in 10 separate 140-character posts. But, I kept it to a short tweet about my Tiger pride and left it at that. Your followers don’t want to see a million tweets and retweets about a sports team or TV show that they might not even care about – you could lose credibility (and a few followers) if you let it all out!
- Post meaningfully. Don’t try to tell a long, drawn-out story via Twitter – if you feel the need to express yourself in a long post, use Facebook or a personal blog. Or, in all honesty, don’t post at all! Call your parents, have coffee with a friend or write in a journal – some things are not necessary to share publicly with your “closest” 250 Twitter followers or 1,500 Facebook friends.
- Keep your audience in mind. If your Facebook friends are primarily acquaintances from high school, college sorority sisters and relatives, posting a silly photo or funny video shouldn’t be a big deal. However, if your Twitter followers are a mix of friends, family, members of the media and coworkers, you should probably think twice about sharing that “super cute” #TBT photo of you and your BFF dancing on the bar at a fraternity formal in 2012.
- Watch your language. If you use your personal social media accounts to also interact with coworkers, the media or other professionals, you should always be on your best behavior. Not all of your posts have to be work-related, but steer clear of any foul language, inappropriate photos or emotionally charged interactions with others. Once it’s published online, there’s no going back!
Don’t be afraid to use your social media platforms as a way to appropriately mingle your professional and personal lives. You can brand yourself as a well-rounded and interesting individual if you play the game correctly, and that’s what it is all about. Don’t put yourself into a situation where you have to clean up your own social media crisis. Instead, stick to a plan and be mindful of your messages, and your reputation and image will continue to grow.