How to use to Social Media without getting Panned

A toddler girl crying

There are, of course, exceptions to the "people try not to cry" rule

When a novice actor does a scene where his character cries, his first instinct is to “make” himself cry.  He does this in one of two ways–either he obsesses over all the sad things in his life, or in the character’s life, until he can squeeze out a real tear; or he pantomimes crying by making crying sounds and scrunching up his face.

Either choice is understandable, but the effect is fake.  In the first instance the audience sees a dude who is trying too hard and in the second they see a caricature of real life.  Neither is good theatre.

Novice social media users can be spotted in similar ways.  The “method” users can be found over-sharing the personal details of their lives from their business twitter account while the pantomimers are busy setting up automatic “thanks for following me, please visit my website!” direct messages.

Luckily, there are other (better) options.

The Voice of Experience

The experienced actor approaches a crying  scene differently.  He knows that when faced with sad situations in real life, most of us don’t try to cry–we try not to cry. So when he does the scene he tries to hold the tears in–creating a moment that plays much more like real life.

The same lesson applies to social media authenticity–if you want to look like a real person, ACT LIKE A REAL PERSON.

Look, specific examples!

Be (the public version of) yourself

My favorite real-world analog for social media is the cocktail party.  It’s definitely fun, and yet, networking and business are taking place everywhere you look.  It’s a social event, so  it’s appropriate to let a bit more of the real you shine through than you would at a business meeting–and yet, you are still in public, so “everything” definitely doesn’t go.

Rule of Thumb: If it’s too personal for the office Christmas Party, don’t mention it on Twitter.

Be Polite

Would you go to a party, tell your best stories and then leave without saying hello, or even waiting to hear reactions?  Would you hand out copies of your latest press release and then leave without saying a word?  I’m guessing not.  So offer your social media friends the same courtesy.  Engage in small talk.  Listen (and respond to) the stories and requests of others.  If you ask a question, wait for and acknowledge responses.

Rule of Thumb: Social Media is a two way communication medium.  If you aren’t acknowledging the input of others, you are doing it wrong.

Be generous

It’s ok to use social media as a marketing and fundraising tool.  It’s ok to go in with the express purpose of meeting specific goals for your organization. (I’ve never been to a cocktail party where that wasn’t the case!)  You simply have to meet those goals while also playing by the rules of the medium.  The world of social media is based on a gift economy,* so in order to get others to help you with your goals, you will first have to help them with theirs.

Rule of Thumb: Social Media is based on a gift economy–you have to give before you receive.

Your Turn

Here’s your chance to change the ways of social media newcomers (or ask questions about what is, and is not, ok.)  Leave a comment with either your biggest social media pet peeve, or your questions about the do’s and don’ts of the party.

*If you want to get all academic about it, read The Gift by Lewis Hyde.  If, like me, you can’t get through The Gift, read Linchpin by Seth Godin instead.

8 thoughts on “How to use to Social Media without getting Panned

  1. Maureen,

    You’re posts always make me think, and this one is no exception! One of my greatest pet peeves is crazy cross-posting. Many individuals and organizations have their accounts linked, so that what goes up on Facebook also goes out on Twitter and is posted to LinkedIn. The key to cross-posting is to do so mindfully. Not every tweet needs to be on LinkedIn. And if you share your facebook posts on twitter, please make sure you actually respond and interact on twitter as well. Too many organizations automatically post facebook status updates to twitter and then never engage with those of us who ask questions or help spread the word about their organization.

    Good stuff!


    • You are so right Erica! It may be hard to see at first but the cultures of Facebook, Twitter and (especially!) Linked In are very different. It is rare for the exact same message to resonate well with all three audiences.

  2. “Rule of Thumb: If it’s too personal for the office Christmas Party, don’t mention it on Twitter.”

    I’m a little confused. The first date with my wife was when she seduced me at our office Christmas party. Based on you post is this something I should Twitter about or not?

    • I knew I could count on you for the hard questions! On twitter (like in most public venues) the older the story, the more you can get away with: So “I love Christmas Parties–my wife of 25 years seduced me at one” is a totally acceptable tweet. “I love Christmas Parities–going to seduce my soon to be wife at one to night– don’t tell her!” Much less cool.

      • Great, because I love telling that story. Unfortunately, my wife does not like me to tell it, so I guess I will just leave it as our little secret between you and me. Oops, is this a public forum?

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