One of the many consequences of our new Internet age is that the past is always present. What I mean to say is this: y’know all those dopey things we said years ago? They’re still around to haunt us. And remember that drunken frat party picture our friend took of us? Yep, it can still crop up to embarrass us.
Naturally, as the social media gathering places du jour, Facebook and Twitter have a special potential to be that kind of bogey man. Prospective employers are now hopping on the Facebooks of interviewees, half idle curiosity and half a serious attempt to get a better sense of who they’re dealing with. There are even recent reports of attorneys mining Facebook for incriminating “evidence” in child custody cases and the like. And we’ve already had innumerable incidents of celebrities and others getting into trouble with tweets posted out of anger, haste, or just plain poor judgement. Fair, unfair… it doesn’t really matter, it’s a reality.
It all comes down to a sometimes uncomfortable blurring between the private and public spheres, the personal and the business worlds. We’re dealing with an ever-diminishing expectation of privacy. And, depending on your business or your personal associations, an opinion you post or the persona you project through pictures, tweets, blog entries, or forum comments can really and truly harm you.
At the end of the day, we all have to come to terms with the fact of our mini-celebrity status, as enabled by social media. And so we have to take a page from actual celebrities if we want to develop social media strategies for how to craft and maintain our online personas.
You have to realize what you can and cannot control. You can’t control who follows you on Twitter. Thus, anything you tweet is carried out there on the digital breeze for all to see. Think twice about posting anything angry, defamatory, low-brow, highly controversial, or otherwise objectionable content if you indeed need to control your social media persona.
Facebook is another matter. You can theoretically control the privacy of your profile, and befriend only those you really know. But we all have “friends” on Facebook we can’t explain if you paid us, and if the goal of your social media is to grow your network—which it often is with internet marketing—you’re going to have plenty of strangers among your “friends.” So, again, you can’t “pop off” on Facebook and expect to get away with it. And you have to control the pictures you are tagged in, as these also make up an important part of your persona.
So, are we saying you have to become some politically-correct, neutered robot with your social media platforms? No, because actually the blurring we talked about works both ways, and people are a little more forgiving of times you inject your private life into your public life. But you do have to be mindful, at all times, of the impression you’re transmitting to the world.