By Jeff Beals
Is it worth the risk?
That’s the question some professionals are asking themselves when it comes to using social media.
This risks and pitfalls of social media are a frequent topic of water cooler conversations at offices worldwide. It seems as if celebrities and business leaders are constantly catching heat because of ill-advised message postings.
Just last week, my alma mater hired a former television personality to serve as public address announcer at football games. A couple days later, the university abruptly retracted the hiring. As it turned out, a university official discovered a nine-month-old Facebook post in which the would-be PA announcer derided the university’s chancellor following last year’s firing of the head football coach.
University athletic department officials apparently determined that the suddenly unearthed Facebook post disqualified the new PA announcer and ended the relationship before it really even began.
The incident has served as a real eye-opener, sending countless professionals to their social media accounts to see if they have any old posts, tweets or updates that could come back to bite them. For better or worse, we live in a hyper-sensitive society in which people are fired and companies lose contracts because someone disapproves of another person’s opinion. That environment is magnified through the easily available and widely distributed communication platforms that we all have right at our fingertips.
Make no mistake: Nobody is perfect. I am an opinionated guy and have surely said things in public that would have been better left inside my head. Most of us have strong opinions, and it feels so good to let out our anger and frustrations on a public forum.
While we enjoy freedom of expression in this country, we are not immune from the consequences of what we say.
That brings me back to the original question: With all the ways it can hurt you, is social media worth the risk?
The answer depends on who you are, what you say and what you are trying to accomplish in your career.
If you’re careful what you say, social media is probably the most cost-effective way of building and maintaining your personal brand.
In this day and age, professionals need a widely recognized and highly respected personal brand. When a large number of people have heard your name and have a positive feeling associated with it, you stand a better chance of winning new business, landing a new job and making a bigger difference in the community.
A strong personal brand helps you transcend the ups and downs of the business cycle. It gives you options and opens otherwise-closed doors.
Because your personal brand is so important, using social media is probably a wise choice for you. The key is to develop a system of “checks and balances” in your head — anytime you are about to post something, think about your personal brand.
If your purpose for posting a message is emotionally driven, it’s best to pause for a while and cool down before you start writing. A little time and perspective can go a long way in preventing the consequences that could come from an inflammatory post.
Imagine your post will be read by your colleagues, boss, clients and prospective clients. Consider whether the post advances or damages your personal brand. Consider how the post will come across to someone who doesn’t know you well or isn’t intimately aware of the subject you’re talking about.
When posting to platforms like Facebook and Twitter, it pays to think like a journalist or a broadcaster. In other words, don’t assume you’re only communicating with close friends or family. Instead assume that the world will read your post. Theoretically, if just one person shares or forwards something you write, there’s a chance your message could go viral.
In some ways, these precautions might feel like a little overkill. Perhaps you’re thinking I’m demanding too high of a standard and that you don’t want to worry so much about everything little think you post. I understand, but remember social media are like fire — if used properly, social media will benefit your life; if used improperly they can kill your career.
Is it worth the risk? Yes. In today’s loud and crowded marketplace, social media can help you cut through the clutter. Just be careful. Any time you stick your neck out there’s always someone ready to criticize you.
Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (402) 637-9300.