I spend a lot of time worrying about my children on social media, even though they don’t have accounts. Unfortunately for them, the work I do makes that less likely for them, not more.
I’m a big fan of social media, and the power it has to inform, persuade and raise awareness. However I’m acutely aware of its downsides, particularly where children and young people are concerned.
I know every generation must say this, but it just seems to radically different to our own childhoods, where we could go for days without hearing from our friends and often that involved their Dad answering the phone first. The nearest we got to inappropriate content was that Judy Blume book and looking up rude words in the dictionary.
First the good stuff. The internet is a great thing for children. They have a world of knowledge at their finger tips, they can discover any information about any subject on earth. The only limitation is their imagination. Sadly they seem to spend it all looking at videos of people playing video games and opening boxes but hey – who am I to argue.
It also allows them to keep in touch with friends in a way not possible before. That feeling of connection is important and shouldn’t be overestimated – even if it can’t replace actual human contact.
Social Media isn’t going away. I still meet people who don’t use Facebook, or have no idea what Instagram is. You don’t need to be a complete master or use it all the time – but you need to have a basic understanding of what they all do. If you’re going to teach your children to look after themselves in the world, then you had better learn what that world is. This is not the Wild West, this is their reality and it should be yours.
Hopefully your children feel that they can talk to you about things that bother them, but you do need to have at least a vague idea of what they’re talking about if they do.
You teach your children to ride a bike, eat in restaurants, road safety – so why on earth would you leave them to work this out on their own.
I see three main issues with kids online, and it’s worth discussing each one.
- Anxiety and self-esteem
This is the major worry for most parents, although not necessarily the biggest real danger. However, make sure your children are aware how to keep themselves safe. Online grooming is terrifying and I don’t want to complacently say that it could never happen in my family, but the more aware everyone is, the safer everyone will be.
First rule, for goodness sake obey the age restrictions.
Action For Children have produced this handy guide.
I know so many children who have Instagram Accounts, Facebook and Snapchat accounts when they shouldn’t. The age restrictions are there for a reason. Even if some of their friends have them, don’t feel that they all do. They don’t. Certainly don’t let your children have accounts if you don’t know how they work.
I mean I know I used to get served in a pub from an early age but hypocrisy serves me well here.
My children are under 13 so don’t have any social media accounts, but that doesn’t mean I can rest easy.
My eldest son has an ipad, which includes imessenger and he has an email account. we have a laptop, they watch Youtube and play on the X Box. I should confess that my son thinks he has his own Youtube channel but actually it’s mine.
The internet contains a world of unsuitable content – so make sure you have set up your parental controls directly from your router. We have BT Internet and their filters are good – although we came a cropper a while ago when I found my son had looked up what something meant far sooner than I thought he should! However we have also set filters on Youtube and the Xbox. Make sure you know how to do this, because you do need to!
Our rules are
- Ipads and laptops can only be used downstairs in family rooms.
- If you don’t know what something means, ask. Don’t google!
- I will check your internet history and will know if it’s been cleared, that you’ve looked at something you shouldn’t.
- Don’t befriend anyone you don’t know, and you can make sure that it’s definitely them.
- Don’t share personal information
- If something doesn’t feel right, then ask.
- Know how privacy settings work and how to block people
When they are older, I will set their accounts up and set their privacy settings for them. I also want to know their passwords. That doesn’t mean I will read their messages or abuse that trust though.
For me, this is a bigger concern than grooming. Both my child being bullied and being the bully. Again, you teach them to behave in restaurants and talk to grown ups, teach them how to behave online. When we were younger, if there was bullying it tended to be contained either in school, or the journey home. Today, there is often no escape for them.
At the moment, our discussions are
- Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t be happy everyone reading.
- Be careful about who you allow into group messages and who you don’t. Excluding people can be hurtful.
- Don’t send pictures of yourself, or ask people to send pictures to you that you either aren’t happy with or would mind your headmaster seeing. CLOTHES PLEASE!
- Be kind to everyone as if they were in front of you.
- Be respectful
Self-esteem and anxiety
Which brings me to the last issue. I can’t fathom how you begin to grow up in a world where you can document your every move, where all your mistakes are registered for eternity and you get to see and edited version of everyone else’s life.
There is no surprise that anxiety and mental health issues among young people are increasing. The fear of missing out (that’s FOMO to you and me) along with a warped view of reality and the increased pressure to be fabulous all contribute and you need to offset it somehow.
I don’t have answers for this one – but you can do your best.
- Tell your children that life isn’t perfect. Show them how photoshopping works, talk to them about how noone’s life is all that it is cracked up to be.
- Encourage them to take photographs of other interesting things. I’ve already told my son that when he’s 13, he can only have an Instagram account if he promises that the majority of photos will not be of himself.
- TURN IT OFF. I’m a fine one to talk, but encourage them to know that you don’t have to answer every message. You can put it down and that the world won’t end if you do something else for a while.
- Have actual friends. Social Media is great for staying connected but it doesn’t replace face to face contact – encourage your children to leave the house or have friends over as often as possible.
Also, think about your own social media use. Your children are not there as content. By all means share their triumphs, your love and your pride, but don’t post content that could embarrass them – even if they were only three at the time. Teenagers are embarrassed about EVERYTHING, and normally embarrassing photos are reserved for the best man’s speech.
After all that, really the only way to keep your children safe is to educate yourself up and talk to them, and make them feel that they can talk to you. You can’t protect them from it, so you may as well hop on board.
If you are still a little clueless, then ask me about my parenting sessions. In them we go through all the social media sites, how they work, what they do, what your children think they do, and how to make them as safe as possible.
Today Facebook’s announcement on business pages made headline news. Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook was changing its newsfeed to make personal connections more prominent and reducing the amount of business posts shown.
Whilst there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth about this, Social Media Examiner’s, Michael Stelzner has gone full “Corporal Fraser” and claims we are all doomed and there is even talk of an apocalypse. However, plagues of frogs aside, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Organic reach from Facebook pages has plummeted in recent years and for largely good reason.
I took a break from Facebook (well, mostly) over the Christmas period and when I returned I didn’t really feel like I’d missed much. There were too many dull posts, click bait articles and the odd amusing video about otters. In other news, I had a lovely chat with old friends about our mutual love of The Crown and I’m slightly mesmerised by those ads for the face mask that peels off blackheads. That is what Facebook is for.
Facebook is not the Yellow Pages, and its first and foremost role has always been to allow people to connect with each other. Whether families living far away, or old school friends, Facebook was supposed to be a place for people to share their experiences, opinions and the odd bit of banter – not to buy a pizza.
I sense this has less to do with Zuckerberg wanting to make the world a friendlier place and much more to do with Facebook’s survival. The explosion in uninspiring, promotional content on Facebook pages has resulted in a decline in user experience and seen many people switch to other channels. The controversy over political bias and misleading click bait news stories is probably another good reason to put a dampener on things for a while.
However, the fact remains that you have put time and resources into building your Facebook page and there’s no need to just up saddle up your horse and leave.
Here are a few things you are going to need to adapt.
- Be Engaging
According to Facebook’s Head of News Feed Adam Mosseri:
“Page posts that generate conversation between people will show higher in News Feed. For example, live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook – in fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos. Many creators who post videos on Facebook prompt discussion among their followers, as do posts from celebrities. In Groups, people often interact around public content. Local businesses connect with their communities by posting relevant updates and creating events. And news can help start conversations on important issues.”
So, the three things you must remember about the Facebook News Feed
- They clearly want you to use Facebook Live more
- Create events that people can talk about
- Talk about issues and stories that inspire conversation
- Search is still a priority.
I have several clients which, for a variety of sensitive reasons, are not the kinds of pages that people will like or engage with. However, we still consider a Facebook presence important. People regularly use Facebook to search for companies and look at their pages directly (not in the newsfeed). When they get there, they need to see content that reflects your company values, personality and services – you just don’t need to post 3 times a day.
- Nail down which platform is right for you and what you are trying to achieve.
Consider whether you truly belong there and what you are trying to achieve. I’ll be perfectly honest, if you want to talk about your business to another professional, LinkedIn is the place to be. My last blog explained why I think it’s the one to watch this year
It essentially works just like Facebook but is ‘shop talk’ only. If you are a B2B business, it’s really where you should be at. Likewise, you might want to invest more time in Twitter or Instagram, reducing your Facebook presence accordingly.
- Be the talk of the town ….
There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. Oscar Wilde
Facebook have announced that they are putting higher priority on people talking to people. Encourage people to talk about your business. If you have premises, put signs up asking people to check in on Facebook. Prompt people to leave Facebook reviews and testimonials, or think up creative ways to make people want to tag your page in their own personal posts. Rather than running the tired ‘like and share’ competitions (because Facebook is penalising those posts even more), ask people to generate their own content and tag you in it.
More than just selling old fridges, Facebook groups are a good way to engage with your community. They are chattier than a Facebook page and the emphasis is on conversation rather than announcements. Members can receive notifications of new posts and invite others to join. Traditionally only personal profiles were able to interact in groups but now a Business Page can administer its own, meaning you can keep your personal profile to yourself. Consider setting one up for your VIP clients, or dedicated fans. A word of caution though, don’t just let it become another way for people to advertise themselves without saying much else and be selective about what you put. If you want to join the Armadillo Social Club, click here to request an invite.
- Put your money where your mouth is.
I’ve been saying this for some time, but the only way you are truly going to get your content seen on Facebook is by paying for it. I wrote this blog over 2 years ago and it is even more true today. There’s no other publisher, whether newspaper, magazine, TV or radio, that lets you promote your business for free so why should Facebook be any different? The power of Facebook advertising to accurately pinpoint your preferred customers is impressive and a tool you should be making the most of. What other advertising channel lets you select the gender, age, web browsing habits and personal interest of your clients?
In short, Facebook Pages are not dead, they’re not even stunned. However, you might have to up your game a little.
If you are determined to make these changes work for you, book yourself onto one of my workshops over the coming weeks. You can spend half a day constructing your Digital Marketing Strategy, or master the finer points of Facebook Advertising or LinkedIn.
Or give me a call on 07801 816793 to talk through how these changes could affect you.
How to identify your target market
The wonderful thing about digital marketing is that now, the world is your oyster. You can talk to anyone on the planet who has a Twitter account, and sell your goods and services to anyone you like, whatever your target market.
This can also be bewildering.
The first question I always ask my clients is “Who’s your ideal customer?” All too often the answer is ‘anyone’. This is ultimately an unhelpful place to start. Like an enthusiastic toddler in their first game of tig, if you try chasing everyone at the same time, you’ll end up with no one.
You need to pick your target market – and focusing on a handful of people will help you to define your messaging.
This needs to be at the forefront of your marketing and don’t think of attempting to design your website, branding or take to social media before you’ve done it. Once you know your target market, your activity then becomes a doddle. You know exactly who you are talking to and what they want to hear.
If you don’t, then you try to please so many people, your message ends up as bland and indistinctive.
Every business is looking for a person who
- Has the same worldview
- Has a problem you can solve
- Has the time and money to give
Once you’ve found them, they then need to
- Be engaged with your product
- Understand and appreciate what results you can bring
Starting with number one
Is it really that important that your target market has the same world view?
Well you’re not asking them to marry you, so arguably it doesn’t matter that much. Depending on the strength of your convictions, you may not turn business away because of it because they’re not really your sort.
However, there’s no denying that these people will be your easiest customers to find, convert and are most likely to become your champions. These are the people your marketing needs to be aimed at – the rest may follow along regardless.
The easiest customers to reach are those you have the most in common with. You know in person when you just click with someone, the conversation flows and you know exactly what the other means.
The first rule of social media is to be authentic, honest and as natural as possible. Your ideal client will like you for it or, as I said recently to a client “they’re going to work out they don’t like you when they meet you so save yourself the bother”
However there needs to be a Venn Diagram in there somewhere of what is you, what is your client, and what you have in common. If you can try sticking to the common ground, you’ll be quids in.
Some of my favourite brands make me feel like I’m one of the gang – that we would get on if we actually met. Similarly, I’ve made some great relationships through social media months (and even years) before I meet them in person.
Start with your fantasy client and pick one very specific client at a time. Build a full and proper picture of them – not just their job title.
Maybe consider it more like dating. Age, gender, location are all vital factors, but then define even further on your key attributes and characteristics.
We may as well be sitting on the sofa next to you.
What do they care about? This does not mean that you have to nail your political colours to the mast (even if you have them) but it does mean that you need to work out where their sensibilities are likely to be.
- Are they concerned about the environment?
- Are animal rights likely to be important or not a factor?
- Are there any particular social causes and campaigns they are likely to be interested in?
I find I can judge a company instantly on their choice of quotes on social media. If they sound like a reject from The Apprentice, then they are probably not for me.
- What are their hobbies likely to be? Are they outdoorsy, interested food, culture, sport, fashion
- What style of images would they most respond to?
- What TV programmes are they likely to watch? What music?
- What are they likely to find funny?
What do they drink? What supermarket do they shop in? Where are they likely to go on holiday? What brands to they buy? Do they care who wins X Factor?
They might sound like irrelevant questions, but it’s a really useful exercise to build your target market profile. If you want to really have some fun, find some pictures to go along with it.
Just putting it out there as an example of what your dream client might look like ….
Where have you been all my life?
Will you be my best friend?
“But I thought I was supposed to be being myself, not pleasing others!”
Be Your Own Beyonce
Once you have given this some thought, your social media ‘voice’ becomes easy to find. Put yourself in Beyonce’s shoes and you can craft an online identity which is authentic and honest but also perfectly reflects the brand that you are trying to create, rather than a warts and all profile.
You don’t need to start talking about yourself in the third person, but think carefully about which parts of your brand are for public consumption – and which ones aren’t. For example, I am a fairly vocal political sort, but I try to tone it down on my professional accounts. I will share some things, often with a social media slant, but I don’t use it as a soapbox. I have a separate Twitter account for shouting at Question Time.
It’s about values rather than partisan issues. I’m quite happy to tweet about Hillary Clinton because I don’t really want to work for anybody who would consider themselves a Donald Trump supporter. I’m more than happy for them not to pick up the phone.
But here’s some rules to bear in mind
- Sometimes it’s a matter of volume. The odd tweet so I know that you like football and support West Ham, but a running commentary of the game, no thank you.
- No oversharing. By all means give me an insight into your private life, so I can understand a little more about you but think ‘Hello centre spread’, rather than a tabloid expose or radio phone in rant.
- Remember that social media posts never really go away. A full and frank Facebook post might be cathartic but is it really what your brand wants to say?
- Friendly and approachable does not always mean ‘cutesy’. If you’re not that sort of brand, don’t feel you have to be just because it’s social media.
- Don’t be mean or offensive. I shouldn’t have to say any more
Hopefully, you now have a clear idea of your head of the people you need to reach. In future blog posts, I’ll cover more on how to track them down and build relationships.
What criteria do you use to decide who your ideal customer might be? Biscuits? Favourite Friends character? Let us know in the comments below.
In the meantime if you’d like some help with defining your target marketing and branding, then get in touch for a consultation.
Last week, there was a photo of Hillary Clinton, taken by Barbara Kinney, that was shared of 8,000 times on Twitter. It showed the crowd turning its back on her, so that they could all get a selfie while she was in shot. This made my blood run cold. It’s not that there’s anything inherently bad about this, more that it would never occur to me.
There was a recent article arguing that selfies, rather than a sign of narcissism, were a way of people saying hello to the world, as if they were standing in front of you, rather than beside you. This made me feel more kindly towards them, but only a little.
Which way they point their camera is yet another way to categorise people, in much the same way as people love to divide people into introvert/extravert bags. Personally, I’m either a very talkative introvert or a slightly miserable extravert – the jury’s out.
For those in the introvert camp, social media can seem a pointless place, and many people choose not to bother at all; they take one look at the headshots, self-promotion and the endless chatter and head for the hills.
However, if you prefer the quiet life, it can actually be a powerful weapon. Used wisely, it can do wonders for your business.
So here’s 8 reasons why social media is great for introverts, and some killer tips for making it work for you.
- You can be yourself, whatever your niche
The first rule of social media is to be yourself, which plays into your hands very nicely. If you don’t see why you should talk endlessly about yourself, don’t. If you don’t like selfies, don’t take them. You need to find your voice and stick to it. Not everyone is going to like it, but that’s OK, you don’t want to do business with them anyway. You don’t need to talk to the masses, start small and connect with people who you are genuinely interested in and want to engage with. Twitter in particular is perfect for finding like-minded individuals, rather than having to talk to the crowds. It doesn’t matter if you’re not sending 10 tweets a day; listen to others, take an interest and build up gradually with the people who matter to you.
- Everyone is the same font.
This sounds obvious but it’s true. We’ve all been in meetings where someone has dominated proceedings, or events where you can’t seem to get a word in edgeways. There will always be someone who shouts louder and has a firmer handshake, who can interrupt just that little more effortlessly. They might not be better qualified or more talented, they just make more noise. Social media is a great leveller. Short of PERMANENTLY USING CAPITAL LETTERS, no one can shout louder than anyone else, and everyone’s voice is given equal weight. You can take your time to join in without the ideal moment passing you by.
- You can plan what you want to say
It might look like social media is all off the cuff, spur of the moment stuff, but actually planning is key. If self-promotion doesn’t come naturally to you, stealing yourself to think about it in an orchestrated way can really help. Also drag someone else in to talk it through with. What would other people be interested in? How do they see you and does that match up with what you want. Then you can begin to tell your story in the way that you want. It doesn’t have to be all at once, but gradually over time. This gives you time to think about it, to amend, to reframe. Using a scheduling tool such as Buffer or Edgar allows you to map it all out and then review it, so you won’t be struck down with panic because you can’t think of anything to write.
- You can do your homework
In the same vein, it can also help you with your offline networking too. Meeting new people can be hard work, however experienced in business you are. If networking fills you with dread, social media is a great way to do a little research beforehand to make you feel more comfortable. Some might call it stalking but I like to call it ‘taking an interest’. Look people up on LinkedIn or Twitter, find out what they’re interested in, what their passions are and you’ll find conversation much more engaging and effortless than going in cold. “I read your article on Linked In” is a great ice-breaker or even “what did you think of Game of Thrones finale”
- You can have meaningful conversations
What I love most about social media, and Twitter in particular, is that it is very easy to get to the nub of something quickly. Yes there’s lots of high fiving and shouting out and name checking this that and the other, but actually it’s incredibly easy to talk about the things that you want to, without the small talk. Track down the #hashtags of things you are passionate about, causes you care about and have expertise in, and begin to talk about those issues with the people who care about them. I have great conversations on Twitter, not just about social media but politics, protests, issues, passions and ridiculously poor jokes.
- Set yourself some boundaries
I spend my life on social media but I have rules which I stick to. I think this is important to not only preserve a sense of self, but also respect your privacy and that of those around you. So
- I don’t identify my children on Twitter by name. There might be the odd photo but these are few and far between.
- I am not ‘friends’ with clients or business contacts on Facebook
- I don’t feel the need to be visible or trumpeting my whereabouts all of the time. A lot of the time I’m watching and listening. Think more tiger than elephant.
- I take regular breaks from social media all together. I don’t use it holiday, I have regular periods when I just need to walk away. That’s fine – everyone is still there.
- You don’t have to leave the house
This is not carte blanche to turn into Howard Hughes, and I do recommend getting out of your pyjamas, but actually digital marketing allows you to keep up with contacts, and what’s going on in the industry without having to be the life and soul of the networking party. It won’t do all the time, obviously. You do have to get out there now and again, and nothing beats face to face interaction; however a little judicious planning on social media allows you to be far more selective about who you spend your time with. You never know, you might even progress to Skype (even WITH the video on)
So there you have it, marketing yourself on social media doesn’t have to be one big Donald Trump rally. Obviously if it really leaves you cold, you can outsource it completely, but there is a danger that you lose some authenticity along the way.
If you’d like some help, I offer (in person) one-to-one training, consultation and support services which will set you on the right path, as well as open workshops should you be feeling in a sociable mood!
Long long ago, when Mark Zuckerberg was still on his paper-round, I used to make television programmes. Actually that’s not strictly true. I didn’t make them, I used to pick the ones I wanted and somebody else made them. People would watch them on TV and businesses would pay to advertise in the breaks.
Hitler and serial killers were my particular speciality but, you know, a girl needs to make a living.
About 13 years ago, a colleague and I wrote a document about how the internet was going to change how people watched TV. I don’t even thing Youtube had been invented. We would sit in Notting Hill eating breakfast and planning world domination. I think we may have used the words ‘content curator’ somewhere in there.
Most of it has come true. Every single one of us can broadcast round the clock to whoever wants to listen. (Whether everybody should or not is another matter, and I will need far more wine before you hear my opinions on that.) My children watch as much Annoying Orange videos on the iPad (oh to stick him in the Nutribullet) as CBBC on the TV. In a similar vein, I read as many blogs as I do published newspaper articles. We are all publishers, producers and broadcasters now.
Some of the best television I have seen in the past few years have actually been campaigns or content solely created for social media. The line between the programme and the advert has all but disappeared.
As a consumer – we have total democracy and total choice. This causes problems for everyone. There’s just too much choice. Physically and emotionally. Just too much noise.
This is a problem Facebook as been tackling for the last couple of years.
The average number of Facebook friends for someone under 35 (I refuse to use “millennial”) is 250. For my (ahem) slightly older age bracket it’s 200. I have 355. Go me!
There are 1,500 average number of posts that are eligible to appear in a Facebook user’s feed each day. EACH DAY! No wonder I’m tired.
Things still break through. Viral hits still happen but they are take increasing effort. Warm your cockles on this one
When Facebook introduced business pages, this was pure marketing gold. You had a ready audience of potential customers that you could talk to for free and who were more than ready and willing to share you with their friends. With a bit of effort and some warm and tender puppy pictures, you could rule the world.
At the end of 2015 there were more than 50 million businesses are now using Facebook Pages, up from 40 million that April.
Sadly all good things must come to an end.
Like an angry Bob Dylan fan, Facebook users started grumbling that it was ‘too commercial’ – there were too many spammy posts and messages from businesses. Newsfeeds were littered with ‘like this post to win a mattress’ posts. Facebook started clamping down and filtering the number of business page updates people would see. Organic reach began to plummet.
They introduced Edgerank – a super complicated algorithm, to ensure that only the most engaging posts were placed in people’s newsfeeds. Marketers turned into Matthew Broderick in War Games, desperately trying to outwit the machine. As well as measuring who is clicking what, they monitor the language of your posts. Too salesy? You’re out.
The cynics amongst you might say that this was done purely because Facebook wants to make money from advertising. That’s probably true, and you can’t really blame them. They are a business after all – and a successful one. Yesterday they published earnings of $3.69 billion on $17.93 billion in revenue in 2015; revenue was up 44 percent from 2014.
Too much choice has brought us back to the beginning. It is Facebook that now decides what to show its users, just like I used to (although not so charmingly). In between that, businesses can choose to advertise in the ‘breaks’ just like in the olden days. The entry price is lower but it exists all the same.
What does that mean for your business? In this noisy crowded world, as a business, you need a two pronged strategy.
- Be there for your customers
Social Media has now become the prime customer service medium for many businesses. That’s where your customers want to talk to and about you and you need to be there. Encourage your customers to post, prompt them to leave reviews. Listen to them, talk to them.
People haven’t got the time to read everything, see everything, watch everything that they might find interesting or useful. They’re busy. So use your Facebook page to be that filter for them. Post interesting, useful, valuable stuff so that your customers see you as a valuable resource (even if it’s just for puppies).
I look at it the way I shop for clothes. I buy clothes from about 2 shops. I don’t want to spend hours browsing or rifling through rails and rails of stuff. Give me a small shop with limited choice that I know I’ll like, that has been chosen with expertise and care.
But don’t spend your life creating content noone will see. It’s a diminishing return and there is no point plugging away at wonderful content if Facebook is going to keep it to themselves.
- Pay for advertising
If you have a Facebook page – you need to pay to make people to see it. If you don’t have a Facebook page – you need to get one and pay to make people to see it.
The targeting of Facebook ads is truly terrifying (to be discussed in another post) and you’d be foolish to think that your business couldn’t benefit.
I can’t think of a better way to reach exactly who you want to. However your money needs to count. This isn’t a throwaway post – this is an investment that needs your love and care. Decent ideas, decent imagery, decent message.
My largest client over the 6 months as spent over £5,000, my most recent client is dabbling with £50 a month. Both are seeing results among the people who matter to them.
Facebook Advertising Masterclass has replaced my existing Social Media School Facebook course. It covers organic reach but concentrates on advertising, because I genuinely don’t think you can succeed on Facebook without it these days.
If you’d like to know join the workshop, or let me run some advertising campaigns for you, then get in touch.
There’s been quite the hoo-ha on social media over the past few days over what is and is not acceptable behaviour on social media, in the workplace or just in society at large.
In case you missed it, Charlotte Proudman publicly shamed a connection on LinkedIn after he sent her a private message complimenting her on her “stunning” profile photo. Cue outrage, mud-slinging, muck-racking and all sorts of other filthy metaphors on both sides. It’s no real secret that I’m a paid up member of the “Feminazi” and my uniform lies (unironed) in the wardrobe ready for action at a moment’s notice, so have discussed these at length.
However, there are more general lessons to be learnt here about how to behave on social media. We spend our lives judging situations, behaving appropriately and adjusting our actions as we see fit. Social Media is no different. There is a time and place for everything, just as there is in the real world.
Here’s the “cut out and keep guide” to appropriate behaviour and the lessons we can learn.
- Facebook is your office party. Whether you have a job or not, a business Facebook page or not, it’s helpful to consider it in this way. You can laugh, you can joke, you can be charming. You can talk about football, Game of Thrones or where you got those shoes. You can even have a few drinks. But bear in mind that someone is always watching and could potentially come back and bite you on the arse.
- Twitter is your open plan office. I think a bit more work goes on on Twitter. In between there is banter, there is chatting about what’s going on, there are asides to people but everything is out in the open and you can be ALWAYS overheard.
- LinkedIn is your management meeting or job interview. So very different rules apply. If you wouldn’t say it in front of your board, or in a job interview, then don’t say it. Certainly don’t use it to crack onto strangers. (Maybe you would say such things in a meeting too, in which case drag yourself to HR immediately and get some help). Keep it professional. That doesn’t mean you can’t show personality, opinions or charm but in a way that shows you are someone people want to do business with, not the office clown (or sleaze).
- You don’t know people. The strange thing about social media is that very often you are talking to people you don’t know. Therefore it’s important to make qualified judgements about what is and is not acceptable to a stranger (even if you have watched the same TV programme or attended the same event). What I find most baffling about Alexander Carter-Silk is that he, an intelligent man, read ‘researching the legal and policy approaches designed to combat female genital mutilation’ and ‘strong background in working with vulnerable women seeking legal support’ and thought “I know, I’ll tell her she’s pretty, she’ll love that” I’ve unfollowed a couple of people whose sense of humour I don’t share and winced at a few over-familiar comments.
- Be careful who your friends are. It’s my policy not to be friends on Facebook with business associates or contacts. Whilst I have nothing really to hide, Facebook is where I can be off duty and, more importantly, I can rely on the fact that my friends know me well and understand the subtext of my posts. Context is everything. The papers have been dragging up Charlotte Proudman’s comments about various men on Facebook. However context is everything. We don’t know the relationship she had with those people, the running jokes or any of the background. It’s very difficult to get across sarcasm when you can’t see a person’s face. It’s all too easy to make assumptions that the other person may not share.
- Manners cost nothing. There’s some nasty people out there and I come across all sorts of people across the client accounts I manage. Everyone feels they’re entitled to an opinion (which they are) and that everybody else needs to hear it (which they don’t). Also, the person you’re talking about can usually hear it too, even if you didn’t meant them to. There’s heated debate and a difference of opinion and then there’s abuse. Don’t confuse the two. Ever.
- Be yourself. Actually you have no other choice. Both Proudman and Carter-Silk behaved in a very instinctive way. They couldn’t help themselves. Actually I think “human rights lawyer brushes of message as one of those things” would be equally as headline worthy. You can try to be someone else but the mask will always slip so best be as authentic as you can. The downside of this is, if you’re an archaic fool the rest of the world will soon find out.
- You have no control. I suspect neither of them thought it would end up on the front page of a national newspaper. However it did and there was little that could be done to stop it. I read Jon Ronson’s book on public shaming over the holidays and is a fascinating and cautionary tale. Be careful out there.
- This just confirms what I’ve always said about the importance of good profile photos.
Social Media is a new playground/battleground that we all need to master and it’s no longer enough to plead ignorance or misunderstanding.
Forewarned is forearmed.