Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Risks and Rewards of Social Media

If you've frequented this particular blog, you've heard me advocate on the use of social media essentially whenever and wherever possible. However, using social media requires a level of responsibility that's perhaps greater than anywhere else.

On the plus side, social media provides an open mic to the world, allowing anyone (really, anyone) to broadcast their message to whomever is willing to listen. On the down side, anyone -- can -- listen, including bosses, co-workers, old girl friends, etc... See where responsibility comes in?

If you are an avid user of social media channels, you're probably leveraging many of them to be successful. For me, I'm on Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Google +, Spotify, Trip It, and there are probably a handful more that I'm leaving out. We can do an entire post as to why I use these tools and whether this is ridiculous or par for the course for someone like me, but my point is, you need to be mindful of what, where, and when you're posting.

Let's look at a few common scenarios:

#1: Checking In EVERYWHERE You Go on Foursquare and/or Trip It

Look, I know it's awesome to be the Mayor of your local Walgreens, so outside of everyone knowing how often you need your meds, that's really not an issue (we all assume you need a lot of meds!). However, if you're a salesperson, checking in at a prospective client's office is probably not the best idea. It shares potentially competitive information that a can be used against you. I don't see harm in checking in at a hotel or airport if you're traveling, but be smart before you just hit the "check in" button everywhere. Even if you're not connected to your competitors, they may be connected to friends of yours, which could enable them to see your updates. I'm a little less concerned about checking in a current client's office because there are benefits there too, but if the client is on the fence and could be considering a move, you might want to pass on checking in there.

#2 Posting Specific Information to Social Sites

When I close a big deal and want to celebrate, one way I often share my excitement is via Facebook. So occasionally (hopefully more often than not), you'll see a status update from me that says I'm celebrating a big win or something (usually accompanied by the picture of a nice stiff cocktail, a preferred way of celebrating for this fine salesperson!).

However, if you were to look back at all of my posts like this, you'll see that in none of them (nor the comments associated with them), does it say anything about the client, deal size, or any other relevant details of the deal. But the post accomplishes two things from my perspective: #1 - it lets anyone that has access to my wall know that what I'm doing is going well; and #2 - it keeps me top of mind should they hear of any opportunities that might be a match for me.

#3 Know When to Say When

You know that point in the night where everything you say is funny to you, but no one else is laughing (I do...)? Yeah, that happens on social media too. And while many social networkers check out of their social sites (except for maybe Facebook) when they leave the office, those messages live on forever.

It's ok to tweet your ass off all night, but when you're drinking, you need to be extremely careful about what you post. What sounds like a good "tweet" after eight whiskey sours could have severe consequences in the morning (just as what you do after eight whiskey sours can!). It sounds simple enough, but you'd be amazed at the number of inappropriate posts that appear after hours and end up having severe consequences.

We benefit from the first amendment, but now have so many more ways to say the wrong thing, so exercising a higher level of responsibility is critical. Organizations are emphasizing the use of social media, but being forced to tighten restrictions at the same time, which sounds counter intuitive, but is indeed necessary.

If you accept the responsibility that comes with these tools, you can achieve great success. But like Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility, so use it wisely and responsibly.

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