One particular news item caught my eye this morning: The story of the Teen Crime Commissioner in Kent that refuses to resign over offensive comments that she made on Twitter. In the 17 year-old’s defence, all the offending tweets were made before she took the post, but the whole scandal could have been avoided with a bit of common sense and a good old-fashioned spring clean.
Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or even YouTube, social networking can be a great tool for your business: It can be a way of meeting like-minded people, sharing ideas, asking a quick question. But since the dawn of the internet, where you bring people together you also bring the opinionated, the ungracious and the downright rude.
Recent examples include the anti-Jew comment made by an Arsenal player; A handful of workers being sacked for updating their Facebook saying how much they hate their work; The Gallagher brothers’ spectacular row on Twitter and pretty much everything Rio Ferdinand tweets. I could go on.
How you deal with trolls, time wasters, troublemakers and general buffoons can make or break both your personal and your company image. Let’s not forget your potential clients, employers or colleagues can access your social profile at any time to find out about you and if they see your online slanging match for whatever reason, it’s not really going to do you many favours.
So how do you not commit social suicide?
I can’t believe I am having to suggest this first – it seems like the best advice for all cases: Use your brain. If it’s work, don’t moan about how much you hate it if your boss and colleagues are on your friend list. Also if you wouldn’t say it to the person’s face then don’t say it on your public profile. Even if that person isn’t on your social network, their friends might be. For the rest of us to view is both unpleasant and awkward. Sometimes the safest course is to just say how you’re feeling or don’t say it at all. Also steer clear of social networking when under the influence.
On all the social platforms you can set up both a business profile and a personal one. If however, you haven’t got the time, then use filtering: LinkedIn has groups that you can send related posts to; Twitter you can opt for personal posts to only be seen by followers you have approved and on Facebook you can limit posts to your friends and even exclude people from receiving the update.
A spring clean prior to accepting the position would’ve avoided the embarrassing situation of the Teen Crime Commissioner. Prior to accepting someone’s friend request or following someone, go through your updates and think “will this be deemed offensive?” If so then delete the post and any repercussions from your timeline. After all, it’s been said and not really doing much now except sitting there on your profile. On this note a regular spring clean of followers/ friends would also keep abreast of any potential problems.
Sadly even after these basic precautions, you are not completely protected from rants, and offish comments. If that’s the case, see what they are getting at: Do they have a point with something you have previously suggested? Have you said something that might have been misinterpreted? They might not be portraying themselves very well on a social level, but they may also have a good point. If it’s just a simple misunderstanding and that someone might be thankful that you’ve taken the time to explain it to them.
You can’t please all the people all the time, so keep your replies gracious. Sure argue your point and If it’s something you have claimed then back it up with statistics or a separate resource. Don’t get lost in a war of words and personal insults. Also avoid swearing: the English language is wide and varied. Use it. I’m not saying become a saint, but once you start swearing as well, you have lost that struggle.
Some people may just be intent on causing trouble and just will not listen to reason. If this is the case, then just leave the conversation. It does take a bigger person to walk away. Also remember on each network you can simply unfriend them or block them altogether. If they were really that unpleasant, report them to the social network staff.
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