Sunday Morning Soliloquy - Musings of an Urbanite: Mistakes I've Made in Social Media

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mistakes I've Made in Social Media


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This past year, I have learned a lot about this little thing called "social media". First of all, I learned what social media is/means. I also learned the impact it can make on business, especially small business. I also made some horrible mistakes along the way. Here is a list of some of my all time favorites...

5) Fighting back or defending yourself online. I am a Yelper. When I first started using Yelp, I really enjoyed reviewing restaurants and I gave my honest, opinion in my usual "snooty-ish" yet comical persona. One day, I received an email from a friend with a link to a thread on Yelp. It was about 8 days of posts in the "Talk" section of Yelp. I had not even heard of the "Talk" section. Yelpers decided to haze my reviews and went on to mock me publicly. Many participated in this public crucifixion of my reviews, the thread went on for pages.

When I first read what others were saying about me, my writing, my personality it was incredibly painful. I was so sad to see so many people mock my writing and my personal opinion. So naturally, I did what I always do when I get hurt, I came out swinging. I decided I would take on that online mob hiding behind their computer screen. I started to defend my opinion, stood up for myself - the result? They came after me even harder, it was like trying to fighting my way out of quicksand. The more I posted, defending my position, the worse it got. With every typed response I was simply fueling the fire.

The thing to know about crowds online is that they have safety in numbers and they are hide behind their computers. They are anonymous mobs of people who behave in ways they would never do "in real life". Most of these people are likely meek, quiet, or regular people but give them some anonymity and they will do and say anything! My best advice - forget it. Drop it. Do not do anything. If you decide to get into the mix you will satisfy their need to make you hurt and they will not stop.

By the way, this was not the last time I made the mistake of defending myself to the masses. I also had an incident with Mommy Bloggers last year that is still too painful to discuss.

4) Divulging too much public information online. I have been blogging for a long time and using just about every single social media site known to mankind, so I learned this a LONG TIME AGO. What you say or post is not only public information but the photos you share can be downloaded and be photoshopped, etc. Chances are this won't happen but just know that it can happen. If you're online as much as I am, you will eventually be recognized from the web - that is when it gets weird.

I will use a "facebook friend" as an example. I have two contacts from my past who are getting divorced (from their spouses). They post every detail of their personal lives in their status updates. I imagine they think this is "OK" because their profiles are private and they only share this information with their "friends". Guess what, just because I knew you for five minutes in 1987 does not make us friends and there is no reason for you to tell me about your soon-to-be ex-husband and his drinking problem (or whatever). Keep your private information - PRIVATE.

3) Keep it PG. Actually, I take that back, keep it G. People get offended and they get offended very, very, very easily. I have over 2000 followers on Twitter - I cannot possibly know what is going to set one of them off.

My lesson on this one came from a former client. Late night on Twitter, I will have conversations with my tweeps - I always say that I talk to my "late night tweeters". There is a small group of us who have become friends on Twitter and we keep later hours so we chat. I once said the 4 letter version of the word "poo" and a former client blocked me. My friend who worked for the company sent me a note and said, "Hey just wanted to let you know my boss blocked you on Twitter." I was so angry because it felt senseless to me, but then, a friend put is into very simple terms. My friend said, "So, just don't say swear words on Twitter, what's the big deal?" He was right. I am fully capable of expressing myself without using profanity.

2) You want a lot of friends? Keep it light and friendly. It sounds so wishy-washy, and it is, but the people who have a lot of "web friends" aren't necessarily people pleasers but they know what builds a good presence. It is sort of like office politics (though I was never very good at office politics either). The friendly people online share links, they help promote their friends and they give away a lot of information.

When I first started tweeting, I thought "I am going to be myself." My abrasive "self", the one I use in my Yelp persona. When I tell stories I don't have a filter, I can be sarcastic and rude and sometimes vulgar. When that translates online, sometimes it didn't work out so well. I have found that people do not want to read what a negative Nelly has to say all day long. It can be fun to read a comical feed of someone sarcastic but it is difficult to build an online relationship with a character. There is a perfect balance between your personality or persona and maintaining a positive image online. I cannot tell you what that balance is, you need to find it on your own.

1) Drunk Blogging. As a Communications major in college, I took an Interpersonal Communications class, from that class I recall ONE very important lesson - "Communication is irreversible". When you put something out into the world, especially in written form, you cannot take it back.

One morning I woke up with a strong guilty feeling and a bit of a hangover. I asked myself, "Self, what did you do last night? Which ex did you drunk text?" So I instantly grabbed my phone and looked at my texts - there was nothing there. Still not convinced, I jumped onto the computer and checked Facebook to ensure that no silly status updates were written in my intoxicated state. Again, nothing. Checked email and all my other electronic communication devices - and NOTHING. Though I was not fully convinced that I was in the clear, I thought I had covered all my basis.

I went about my day, yet I was haunted by the thought that something was horribly wrong. Finally, it dawned on me - MY BLOG! The moment I got home I checked my blog and sure enough there was a post. A drunken blog post written as if it had been ripped out of the pages of a sixteen year old Leyla's diary. I took it down immediately and hoped against hope that no one read it in the 12 hours of its existence.


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