Brian Solis of the Altimeter Group just wrote a thought provoking article, “Online is the New Real World: Your Digital Reputation Precedes You”, which is the forward to Andy Beal’s new book, “Repped”. I look forward to reading Mr. Beal’s perspectives about online reputation: how to build, manage, monitor and protect your online reputation and would recommend this book to anyone using social media, which I guess would be most of the world’s population. Mr. Solis’ article, however, got me thinking about how everyone really needs their own, personal social media policy. For the uninformed, social media policies are as standard now in corporations as the “Employee Handbook”, to provide specific, written guidelines, boundaries and an overview of behavior that is acceptable, or not. But when were you presented with your own “social media policy handbook”, who reviewed it with you and did you have to sign something saying that you participated in the review?
Mr. Solis’ quotes novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez that “Everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life and a secret life”. Brian goes on to comment on how prophetic this was by Marquez in light of the myriad of platforms available for public viewing. I believe that these lines between these three lives have blurred for many of us and in many cases to the detriment of the social media participant.
In the PR business, a huge amount of thought and many, many hours are put into arriving at a finely crafted public image or perception of someone. Before you signed up for Facebook did you give any thought as to what your online persona would be? Before setting up your Twitter account, did you spend 10-15 minutes to write down some personal guidelines that would apply to yourself and how you will treat others? Isn’t it convenient how these platforms and technology enable your spontaneity, giving you the freedom to express yourself, many times with no consequences, at least immediately? We just had a local situation in Minnesota where a teenager insinuated a relationship, via a tweet, with a teacher/coach on a “Rumors” Twitter site. First of all, absolutely nothing will get “started” by having a “rumor” page for teenagers, right? Well, these things will get said, one way or another, right? Yes, gossip and rumor have been around for a few years but that gets to the crux of the matter: you used to have to say it face-to-face or, if you learned empathy and self-control, you refrained from any comments to begin with. But social media makes it so easy, it provides the platform and tools, that it is so hard to keep your mouth closed or, another novel idea, think before you post. I am not picking on teenagers, however, as there are numerous cases of adults posting questionable content and posts, or commenting on students that have resulted in career-enders. That is what it all gets down to: what will your reputation be and how will your actions on social media be perceived?
A reputation is like a painting that is never finished, a work in progress, but after several paint strokes one starts to see an object or idea and as more paint is added, the picture becomes clearer and more revealing; more paint provides more information and answers questions as to what the painting truly is. Your reputation is the same, whether off-line or on-line. As more actions and opinions see the light of day, a painting of your values, your inner being, what type of person you are become clearer. Personal reputation has not changed since the dawn of man but I think we just have to be so much more vigilant today because of the expanding ways that we can communicate with our world. What do you think?
Do we each need a personal social media policy? Some people do and some don’t. Some people have an internal “policy” that guides their behavior – what might be right and what might be wrong. It’s called character, which then begins to paint a picture of your reputation.
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