June 16, 2012    /    by

Favorite Survival Tips for Using Social Media

What's appropriate and what's not regarding the use of social networks? Beyond formal codes of conduct at work, what behaviors and attitudes will likely lead to trouble? What tips can we share from those who have gone before us and learned about the good, the bad and the ugly? What good habits enable a positive experience in the long run? And, what are some examples of social media technology being used in destructive ways that undermine relationships?

  What’s appropriate and what’s not regarding the use of social networks? Beyond formal codes of conduct at work, what behaviors and attitudes will likely lead to trouble? What tips can we share from those who have gone before us and learned about the good, the bad and the ugly?  What good habits enable a positive experience in the long run? And, what are some examples of social media technology being used in destructive ways that undermine relationships?

These are topics that need more attention, in my opinion.

One aspect of cybersecurity that gets far too little attention online is pragmatic cyber ethics. Most security bloggers (including me) spend beaucoup time elaborating on viruses, malware, hacking, passwords, insider threats, external bad guys, policies, conferences, cloud computing challenges, do’s and don’ts of government technology contracts and more. However, we spend too little time addressing online etiquette issues that are getting people in trouble – even when technology and security are working properly.

Don’t get me wrong. Social media marketing advice abounds – if you are looking for it. A quick Google search will yield almost half a billion page views. One top article offers: 10 Social Media Tips From a Top Media Agency, with advice like “Don’t Be an Island” and “Listen Up.”

 But marketing is not what I’m talking about. I’m referring to personal advice that works for the average user – even at home.

I like this About.com article entitled: Top 10 Social Media Do’s and Don’ts, which focuses on finding a job using social media. Also, there is advice on how to act online to, amongst other things, “not get fired.”

Another worthwhile article is a few years old but still very relevant: Social Media Etiquette: 20 Dos and Don’ts to Avoid Looking Like an Ass. Here’s an excerpt:

“… DO think before “speaking.” – Yes, social media involves the ability to publish your    thoughts instantly. But just because something pops into your head, it doesn’t mean it should be shared with the world. Think first.

DO personalize messages and introductions. — When you first connect with someone new and they don’t already know you, go ahead and say hello. Let them know how you came across them. It’s a little less creepy and you might just make a great impression.

DO think (and network) outside your circle. — If your social networks only involve people who agree with you, you’re living in a box. It’s silly at best.

DON’T post questionable photos of others without their permission. — Regardless of whether or not you legally need a model release to post a certain photo, don’t post anything questionable or compromising of someone else unless you check with them first. It’s just the right thing to do. And if you don’t, remember this — karma’s a bitch. You have no idea what they have on you.

DON’T send automated messages to new followers. — When someone follows you on Twitter, don’t use automated tools to immediately bombard them with messages (no matter how sweet you think you’re being in your not-so-personal “hello”). Remember, it’s not just you annoying them — others are doing it too….”

But my favorite social media advice, and the blog that got me thinking about this topic again this week, comes from Pastor Kevin DeYoung. I urge you to read his entire post – regardless of your religious beliefs. Here’s an excerpt from: The One Indispensable Rule for Using Social Media:

“…Whether you are a tween, a teen, a pastor, a politician, a grandma, or a grad student, whether you blog, tweet, post, or pin, here is the one indispensable social media rule you must follow if you want to be wise, edifying, and save yourself a lot of anguish:

Assume that everyone, everywhere will read what you write and see what you post.

No matter your settings or how tight your circle is, you ought to figure that anyone in the world could come across your social media. All it takes is a link or a search or a bunch of friends you don’t know gathered around a phone that belongs to someone you do know. Anyone can see everything. Your pastor, your parishoners, your ex-whatever, your boss, your prospective employer, your spouse, your kids, your in-laws, your I don’t know if people forget  fans, your constituents, your opponents, your enemies, your parole officer, the girl you like, the dude who freaks you out, the feds, the papers–assume everyone can read your rant and see your pics….”

Now I’m sure that some readers will misinterpret this perspective – especially endorsed from a chief security officer. No, I am not giving up securing sensitive data via appropriate channels. Yes, I think Facebook, Google and other others should offer better privacy setting options.

But social media sites are, by design, very open and shared. Kevin's advice affects how we wisely post material and interact in online conversations. There are real consequences to bad judgments regarding whether content should be posted. One friend said to another friend: “What part of the words ‘social media’ don’t you understand?”

I even left a comment on Kevin’s blog about this rule applying to most email exchanges at work. (I know this goes beyond the social media category.)

Yes, I believe secure email can be private. However, I have seen hundreds of examples of inappropriate use of email by staff to rant about personnel problems, coworkers, their management, a lack of a raise, their spouse or other topics. These emails can be forwarded to others, show up in court proceedings via an e-Discovery (court-order) request, accessed by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in governments, sent via “blind cc,” or even inadvertently read by coworkers on screens.   

 I’m no longer surprised by stories of the inappropriate uses of social media. Yes, I am an optimist who believes that technology can, and will, do amazing things. But as Thomas Jefferson once advised, “When angry count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred.”

I think this quote applies to online social media channels as well. What are your thoughts? Any tips to share?