Social media tips: Exposing yourself online with class

- October 3, 2010 3 MIN READ

Don’t forget the ‘cl’ in ‘class’

To date, Twitter has been my best source of business, and I’ve made firm friends along the way.

Back when I worked alone, it created a sense of camaraderie with others in a similar situation, which made it feel appropriate and easy to share frustrations about difficult clients. I didn’t mention names, so I didn’t think twice about the ramifications.

Then one day I realised that if someone broadcast one of those messages about me, I’d be mortified, even if my name wasn’t mentioned.

Had I been turning prospective clients off because they feared what I might say about them?

Personalise, just don’t get too personal

Do I have to censor everything I add to the online sphere, suppressing my personal side – the side that shows who I really am and what I really think?

Absolutely. Even more so than in real life. Although our manners and the way we handle relationships don’t change from real life to online, everything is amplified by being on record forever.

Thinking about that stops me from hitting enter at least once a day.

What exactly does sharing your personal side mean anyway? That you like eating Maggie Beer ice cream and that apostrophe abuse gives you nightmares? That you wear your political and religious views on your sleeve? Or that you’re annoyed because your telco kept you on hold for 31 minutes before the call cut out abruptly?

There’s no right answer to this most modern of dilemmas, but there are a few things to keep in mind in order to maintain your reputation and relationships.

Having two identities is probably not the answer

Having two accounts sounds logical, right? The business account is perfect for those who are purely interested in your professional point of view, and people looking to find out more about the real you can follow your personal account too.

Bad idea.

How will you establish trust if you only ever talk business? Can you really engage in meaningful relationships that way? In any case, you might just find that your followers want to hear from the real you. That’s what happened to Bec Derrington from Source Bottle when she asked her followers if she should separate her business and personal tweets after feedback from an annoyed journalist. (If you’re interested, read the full story here).

Want more articles like this? Check out the social media section.

Your audience is larger than you think

Yes, you need to target the way you communicate with your audience online, but you’re not really just communicating with them, you’re communicating with everyone online. What might seem appropriate and even classy to share with your target market or industry colleagues could very well come across as offensive to someone else.

If you wouldn’t feel comfortable having your mum read what you’re about to post, think twice.

Be safety conscious

After reading this chilling account of how easy it is to stalk someone using the location-based social networking site Foursquare I’ve become much more conscious of my online security.

Develop your own social media policy

Social media policies aren’t just for the big end of town. Develop your own, and have it play a part in both your systems and your marketing plan – particularly as your business starts to grow and involve more people. Think of it as helping to define your personal brand.

Consider issues such as confidentiality, boundaries, liability, defamation and the characteristics of your target market. Your social media policy should also cover what you link to, including bookmarks, who you follow on Twitter, and who you like on Facebook.

Mine can be summed up in a simple four-part mantra:

  • Don’t swear or discuss politics
  • Don’t speak badly about clients, even if their names aren’t mentioned
  • Think about how past, current and prospective clients (and my mum) would respond if they read what I’m about to say or link to
  • Don’t jeopardise my own or anyone else’s safety

Do you have any social media tips for interacting online? Ever done or said anything you regret? Confess below, but think twice before you hit ‘enter’. You never know, your mum might read this one day.