Netiquette: Rules of the Social Media Road

Rules of the Road ImageIn my household, summer came to a close recently as my 11-year old son headed off to middle school.  Now that school is back in session, I’ve been giving renewed thought to social etiquette.  Plus, with the #ALSicebucketchallenge making the rounds on Facebook and the less fortunate news about internet hacking and private photos finding their way to very public media outlets, it’s made me give extra consideration to social media etiquette.

In the context of Networking, social media can be an especially wonderful tool as it provides an easy method to learn about what’s going on with specific individuals, companies and the world around us.  But, we must always be cognizant of the unspoken rules of the road – even in social media.  With that here are three tips to bear in mind:

  1. Understand the intended purpose of various social media tools.  Facebook, for example, is a wonderful way to keep up on what’s happening in the lives of family and friends, near and far, from all parts of our lives dating back to childhood.  We can post photos and videos, provide status updates and the like.  It is a more casual venue for communication than some other social tools.  On the other hand, LinkedIn, is a more professional social tool.  It is a place to post our own professional profile, review those of others, learn more about companies and opportunities and read blogs from thought leaders on a variety of business-oriented topics.  Twitter, is a good way to post and gather quick hit information – each message maxes out at 140 characters so, while often extremely informative, the sound bites are always brief.  There are many, many other popular social sites:  Instagram, Google+, Digg, Pinterest and others.  For each, be sure to know their purpose so you can best utilize them.
  2. Manners matter.  Be polite.  No trash talk.  No bullying.  Do not post information about, photos of or tag others without their permission.  Common sense counts.  And, you are certainly entitled to your opinion, but if you choose to talk about “religion and politics,” and any other potentially controversial topic, know that you are probably offending someone and there could be far reaching consequences for your reputation and/or your relationships.
  3. Be cautious.  Speaking of your reputation, please, please, please be cautious with your use of social media.  Do not post photos or videos you might someday regret.  Do not use social media as a venue for ranting or picking a fight or airing personal matters best handled in a private, face-to-face manner.  Once something is out there, it’s out there.  It is very difficult to recall what we post.  And, never assume that a photo or video or comment is reserved for your “friends’” eyes only.  As soon as an item is posted to a social site, there is a high likelihood that it can and will be seen by others – friends, family, employers, clients, etc.  If you think that something is potentially embarrassing or could be damaging to your reputation, don’t post it!

As a bonus, I had the good fortune to share these tips and others with the Kansas City Live audience this morning.  Take a look at my segment from KSHB Channel 41.

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