Commenting Doesn’t Make You Clever: How Not To Ruin Your Rep Online

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Dear Readers:

It’s been one heck of a couple of weeks on the social media front, hasn’t it? From Paula Deen’s social media manager posting a pre-firing brownface photo  (Yikes!) and Trump’s intern accidentally posting photos of Nazi soldiers (oh, man) to Kim Kardashian inadvertently throwing herself into the Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift Twitter feud (started by a misinformed Swift tweeting a response without thinking; sigh), the internet has been rife with social media gaffs which have served as PR challenges for the aforementioned parties, but clear examples of how not to use social media for the rest of us.

It goes without saying that social media platforms are a fantastic way to engage readers, but used incorrectly and they can singlehandedly destroy a brand (and make you look ignorant, to boot). Today, I want to share a few do’s and don’ts to help you avoid any red-faced moments of your own. This post should also highlight why it is essential to know and use your platforms before you hire someone else to speak on behalf of your company.

DO spend time doing your own research. Remember that social media is seen as real-time PR and an extension of your personality and brand, not that of someone you hire.   The only way you can teach someone to do things your way and write in your voice is to establish both before you hire someone to assist you. But don’t just hop on and go when you have no idea what you’re doing. Instead, hire a social media professional to tutor you on platforms or do some research on social media practices and etiquette and practice on private accounts. When you don’t understand how things are done, you are vulnerable and can become unintentionally intolerant or lackadaisical. You won’t have a clear understanding of reasonable deadlines, what is possible in terms of promotional options or how best to utilize the platforms. This leaves you, your brand’s credibility and your staff in a vulnerable position.

DON’T confuse commenting with being clever. All commenters should keep this in mind, whether initiating a post or responding to one. Impulsive posts tend to be emotionally-driven and can stem from a thought-process that has been fogged up by anger, joy, sadness or another intense (and often fleeting) feeling. While you may want to shout your opinions from the online rooftops, the truth is these posts can be seen as arrogant, offensive or even chaotic. Cher may get a pass, but chances are you won’t.

DO stay focused on the big picture. Take a look at all of your posts and pretend they are a one-page brand synopsis. What does this one-sheet say about you? Is it consistent? Snarky? Interesting? Informative? Does it make sense? Does it paint you in the light that is most attractive to your desired consumer? Being provocative or sarcastic may get you a like or a laugh, but unless you’re an entertainer, it may not be worth it in the long run.

DON’T skimp on grammar. Is it really too much effort to put the “Yo” in front of the “U”?  Loads of “…” and extra punctuation (???) look unintelligent on paper. All caps and LOL are also big no-no’s.

DO have fun with it. There’s a way for you to have a good time in real time, but it will take time. Until you really have a good handle on all of your handles, it is  best to be cautious and schedule your posts. There’s no need to comment on every controversy, but do have a point of view and don’t be afraid to share your personality, just do so in a way that won’t leave potential clients questioning your self-control, focus or judgement.

Don’t become a side-show. As readers engage posts on a moment-to-moment basis, it can be tempting to “up the ante” to get more comments or likes as the salacious posts tend to get more attention. Remember that those cheering/egging  you on don’t have anything at stake whereas your reputation can be impacted with every tweet. Man VS Fat star, Adam Richmond comes to mind–his show was cancelled after this rant on Twitter. 

DO stay true to who you are. Commenters can be cruel. You don’t need to respond to change your designs, your goals or your values to appease anyone else.

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