Social media savvy is an essential 21st century survival skill

Look around the next time you’re out in public and take note of the number of people glued to their phones or tablets. More than 100 million users log into Twitter each day; Facebook has more than 1.94 billion active users each month; LinkedIn has nearly 500 million members; and Instagram has some 700 million monthly active users. Love it or hate it, social media has taken over the world and it seems that it’s here to stay.

While social media can be uplifting, informative and inclusive; it can also destroy lives and careers. A growing number of individuals have been hauled to court for their social media posts, faced fines, and even lost their jobs. It’s also not uncommon to see companies being called out and vilified, by association, when one of their employees transgresses.

The social media phenomenon is so pervasive (and so potentially dangerous in terms of reputational damage) that most companies have developed comprehensive social media policies, which staff are required to conform to. While consultants are not confined to a specific company’s policy, some common sense and social media savvy should be practiced by anyone when using social media.

And, if you still doubt the power of social media, consider this: a growing number of companies and recruitment agents are checking the social media accounts of job applicants before making appointments.

Here are some simple rules to keep you out of hot water on social media:

  1. If you wouldn’t say it in front of your clients and colleagues, don’t say it on social media.
  2. Be extra vigilant when entering into discussions about topics like culture, religion, politics and race.
  3. You can’t truly erase anything you put on social media… there’ll always be a screen grab to come back and remind you of your gaffe.
  4. Don’t provide confidential business information or personal information on line.
  5. If you choose to post anonymously, remember that your true identity/location can be traced relatively easily.
  6. It’s not necessary to add your two bits worth to every post you see. Sometimes, on social media – as in real life – silence is golden.
  7. Since recipients of your message don’t have the benefit of hearing the tone of your voice or seeing your body language, posts can easily be misconstrued. Post with that in mind.

Above all, remember that your social media profiles are a snapshot of who you are and how you react to the world around you. It’s probably a good idea to scroll down your posts from time to time to check that you are presenting yourself in a way that you want others to see you and being true to your values.

Social media can be a lot of fun. It will allow you to connect with amazing people that you won’t ever meet in real life; and others that you’d never want to meet. Enjoy the experience but don’t lose sight of the perils.

When in doubt, the Socrates test is a useful measure: is it true, is it kind, and is it necessary?