Social Media Guidelines in the Age of Exposure

Anthony Weiner’s 7 Social Media Business Lessons

Congressman Anthony Weiner’s now public Twitter exchange with a number of women and the media drama surrounding it underscore the need to think about social media exchanges from both a personal and organizational perspective. Social media involvement carries with it social responsibility.

7 Social media interaction lessons

Here are Anthony Weiner’s seven lessons for both individuals and companies engaged in social media interactions. Please share these learnings with your children, friends and colleagues.

  1. Remember that anything you post on the Internet is forever. Think beyond Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. This includes email, chat and other online postings. Photographs and video are no different than text. Murphy’s law further dictates that embarrassing content will most likely turn up when it’s least convenient.
  2. Never post anything you wouldn’t want your spouse/partner, mother, kids, employer or clients to see. It’s not about how good or bad you feel at the moment. Check your guilt at the door because online and social media forums are not confessionals or psychiatrists’ offices where there’s an oath of confidentiality. The boundaries between our personal and professional lives continue to blur. If you’re a public representative of an organization, business or government office, you’ll be held to higher standards.
  3. Be transparent. This doesn’t mean tell all. Rather be sure you’re your intentions are clear and people understand why you’re sharing the content. Don’t disclose confidential information whether it’s insider data, medical or personal in nature.
  4. Don’t lie! Don’t fabricate stories or intentionally mislead or misrepresent facts. It’s the Bill Clinton lesson: It’s better to keep quiet than to lie. As my dad says, the best thing you ever said is the thing you never said.
  5. Come clean fast if you have problem that goes public. If you don’t, other people and the media use it to their own ends and make you situation worse, especially in today’s 24/7 news cycle. Your first loss is your best loss.
  6. Get the best advice you can afford and listen to it if you have a problem. Anthony Weiner’s worst mistake was talking to the media when any good attorney or PR person would have told him to shut up. Just because you’re a lawyer, doesn’t mean that you can give yourself good counsel.
  7. Be aware that online and social media interactions aren’t a game. Real people are at the other end of these communications. Understand that online interactions happen without the feedback and control mechanisms that let you know when you’re overstepping acceptable boundaries. Online, thoughts flow directly from your brain to your fingertips without being processed. As a result, you’ll communicate things that you’d never say in person or over the phone. Instead, get up from your computer and take a break to think about what you’re saying.

3 Social media must-have guidelines

From a business perspective, these seven lessons translate to the need for every company to have the following three plans in place whether or not your organization is actively involved in social media. Further, have rigorous, on-going brand monitoring in place to alert you when there’s an issue brewing.

  1. Social media guidelines. Outline what employees should do and how they should identify themselves when they’re at work and when they’re on their own time.
  2. Crisis management plan. Every organization needs to outline what should be done when there’s a problem. Bear in mind that this is most likely to happen at night, over a weekend or on a public holiday. Your crisis management plan should go beyond just here’s the PR firm we have retained.
  3. Contingency plan. Determine what should be done in other, less critical but equally important situations. Decide what to do, for example, when a competitor is overwhelmed by a scandal.

Regardless of what you said or did on a social media platform and how appropriate or casual it may seem to you at the time, if you cross the socially acceptable lines, your bad behavior will be seen as a betrayal by family, friends, colleagues, followers and the public.

Do you have any other suggestions that you’d add to this list? If so, please include them in the comment section below.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Here’s a related article: Real-time PR Checklist

Photo credit: victuallers2 via Flickr

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