Social Media Policies; not just for Businesses Anymore

As social media consultants, one of the things we do at DragonSearch is to help our clients develop a social media policy for the company and their employees. We have created a seven plus page document that discusses as many of the needed concerns, issues, and possibilities that are relevant for a business social media policy and their employees. After all, social media networking is social.. so the more people involved, the more social it will be. However, every business, whether they are active in marketing on the social level or not, should at least be discussing what they find acceptable for their employees. No one wants to find out they need a policy after an employee tweets all the company secrets or some other social blunder.

What About Those Social Media Blunders?

oh-no-i-ruined-my-online-reputationThere was a really great article in Social Times this week by Andrew Rosen about protecting one’s self from social media remorse.  I thought it was a really needed article because I have had many of the same conversations with people about the very issue and other related things like integration of our public selves through social media.   As more and more of our lives, or history and our personalities gets online though social media interactions, the number of blunders or awkward situations will continue to grow.  Of course, we are all human and mistakes will be made , but now it’s really really public and often, once you hit send, you can’t get it all back! But the article talks about what to do after you have blunder, not how to avoid the blunder in the first place.

So I started thinking about my almost 10 years of being all over the place online and honestly there is only one major blunder that I wish did not happen. In the same span of years, I have taken down one blog post, edited one cousin on FB, and back down from one discussion.  Not a bad track record, I think. So I started thinking about why I don’t have a major issue with so much of this stuff…

I Developed My Own Personal Social Media Policy

Not that I knew it at the time! After all, social media didn’t have a name, but I had my personal standards of posting on threads and forums and later blogs. I developed a mental checklist of what works for me and the person that I want to be online, Since, I pretty much stick to it personally and professionally, I have manage to avoid a great deal on internet regret.

A Personally Social Media Policy is going to be exactly that, very personal, so it really has to resonate with your true self online.  I don’t care if you are representing your real life self on Facebook, or a blogger persona like Johnny B. Truant ( another great article out this week and worth reading!), but figuring out your core values and what you are personally proud of is important. So rather than coming up with some generic list of things to think about, I’m just going to share my own, newly branded, Personal Social Media Policy for all:

FauxClaud’s Personal Social Media Policy:

Walk Away Renee: Most of the time we have the need to comment and engage online about things that matter to us. Of course, when some issue is important, one also has the tendency to get emotionally charged up.  When I find that someone or something has really pushed my buttons and gotten me going, then I will walk away from the keyboard ( or at least go on to something else and return to the emotional issue later).  If I find later on that I still feel strongly about the issue, then I will spend the time dealing with the issue, but often the pure stupidity that got me annoyed in the first place just seems like a waste of time and I am happy that I didn’t indulge my emotions.

The Bitch Check: If, after returning to the scene of the crime, I find that I do still feel the need to add my two cents, I will write my bit and then, if possible, call for a “bitch check”. The bitch check, as we affectionately call it at the office, is either briefly reading out load or calling someone else over to read over what we have written. The idea being that having someone else look over our work will be able to more clearly see any signs of anger or bitchiness. Let’s face it, if one is emotional charged up, then the edited version that you want to send might be much kinder than your original reaction, but snarkiness or sarcasm can still come through.  Take that out before you hit send.

Speak Softly, but Carry a Big Stick: This concept I must completely credit to my history on the Adoption Forums especially the now gone MSN Groups of Adoption Insights.  One might never think it, but in the early days online adoption forums were crazy! Emotionally charged hot houses.. it was like the wild west online and it could get ROUGH!

Anyway, For about three years I watched people fight on message boards.. yelling, cursing, name calling, threats.. you name it and I realized.. that while most people had real legitimate things to say, no one listens if you sound all angry. The angry posts, however righteous, get dismissed because then it is so easy to brush off the author by saying  “oh they are crazy.. they need medication.. they are nuts” and so I developed my version of speaking softly.

Basically, no matter how wacky an accusation or how wild a position, I make sure that I carefully respond in the most open manner and address all the issues. Now some folks will say that I have fed my share of trolls like this, but I figure that addressing a maybe-troll in a kind way gives them more reason to stop their trolling and they are more likey to hear any logic if they are spoken to like a real person.  And I know for a fact, that it works!

My own blog is a great example of this as I have taken some really vile comments, dedicated a whole post to the discussion and basically defused the whole situation. Guess what? No one ever attempts to be that nasty on my blog anymore, because they know I will call them out like that! Kindly, sweetly, but 100% which leads us to..

The Truth Will Set You Free: I speak MY truth. I don’t put words in other people’s mouths. I don’t exaggerate. I speak in facts that I know and can prove (and will link to) and then I claim what I say.

I also feel very compelled to completely speak MY whole truth. Especially on my personal blog, I feel this huge obligation to be real about the good and the bad.. even if that means being really honest with myself and admit some less than stellar traits, etc.

What I have also learned is that it’s hard to dismiss facts because the truth is not right or wrong.. it just is.  So if I state something that is fact, and others get upset by that, then that is just how they feel.. and not something I should feel regret over because I don’t control their personal truth, not that I am mean, but I cannot control other people’s reactions.. only my own. So sticking with the truth is very liberating for me.

Always Owning:  Long before I knew about the word branding, I made the decision to brand myself. Again, back to the adoption boards, there were multiple boards that we were on and you could have a different username on each on. That was confusing, so after a full false starts with other screen names, I became “FauxClaud” . For whatever reason, probably because I hate repeating myself or getting asked the same questions over and over, I wanted people to know when ever I commented or posted something.

Hence, now, all my profiles are FauxClaud, my log ins when possible and the added bonus is that I have little to remember , like: “Oh, do I have an account here? Let’s sign in.. it must be FauxClaud” and it is.

Since real life and online have really integrated now with Facebook, I now use both my real name and FauxClaud interchangeably. I don’t change it ever and I sign my name to everything that I post as myself. I think because everything is traceable back to me, I have to feel good about what I put online especially professionally.  Hence, walk away Renee and the Bitch Check are even more important!

Transparency: This concept kind of bridges the Big Stick and the Truth, but basically it comes down to the fact that I don’t like to hide anything and I would rather be open and honest about everything even if it is uncomfortable. So, I admit my own flaws online. I don’t hide from my rotten typing and less than stellar spelling. I will make debates public.

It also means that when I do feel the need to edit something because of a mistake, I say it. Like when my cousin got all wiggy over adoption issue on my Facebook wall I first tied to speak softly, but after a bit SHE failed the bitch check, so when I took her stuff down, I private messaged her and told her why.

Some Things ARE Private: There are things that I will not post. I don’t post about domestic agreements that my husband I have because I never know when he will read my blog and hearing my undiluted opinion will rile him back up again.  I do not post negative things about folks and call them by name unless I am willingly opening up a firestorm. I don’t like to post about generalizations because that often unwillingly opens up a firestorm. I don’t posts about bodily functions because of the whole TMI issue and I am trying to teach my two youngest kids that the word “fart” or “butt cheeks” does not need to be spoken out loud every five minutes.

However, most things I am open about, like I have no problem posting my kids names or pictures, however, I will never say how They feel.. only how *I* am feeling.

Take it Up or Leave it: My adoption networks know I am a marketer and my marketer clients can know I am an adoption blogger.  I don’t hide who I am under different personalities and I think, because I have had this internal code, I am not ashamed of what I have done.. so if you want to Google me to check out my online reputation, I can stand by it.. which leads me too:

Never Delete: I don’t mind repairing a spelling error or editing after publishing, but again, because of the above checklist, I never really have wanted something to just “disappear”.

Now I am not saying that this concept would be perfect for everyone, but I feel strongly about it.  I personally have hated knowing where a great post was on another blog that I often referenced and suddenly, one day with no warning, it was gone. I hate disappearing blogs. I hate disappearing websites. So, because I do not want to case that frustration to others, I refuse to ever delete! I am even seriously considering writing something like that into my will.

Avoid Social Media Regret: Make a Personal Social Media Policy

Now this is the first time I have ever written this all down, so they do kind of morph and overlap at time, but overall, it stands pretty dern true.  I really can credit having my own mental personal social media policy as the failsafe that has kept me feeling good my online reputation when they Google my name.

So, if you find yourself confused by all the changes in social media and not sure what you should do in some situations, take some time and figure out what feels right for you. Right them down if you want, but just make a mental note.. and the next time you are unsure, think about your personal social media policy and react accordingly.