Whether you love it, loathe it, or still aren’t quite sure what to do with it, social media has become an inescapable part of our world. So now seems a good time to remind ourselves of the fundamental rules of living out your life online, as well as consider some of the perils and pitfalls to watch out for. Some are based on common sense, some on bitter personal experience. But all worth considering when embarking on the wonderful adventure that is social media in 2013.
1. Social media IS relevant to you. It is incredible how many people still believe that Twitter is only for people who want to talk about themselves (or their lunch). But in reality, social media facilitates conversation and interaction at a level that has never been possible before. Whether you’re using it personally or as a company, you’ll only truly discover the scope of what’s possible if you give it a go.
2. The internet never forgets. You can delete a tweet, a Facebook group or a photo. But once something is online you are placing into the hands of trillions of users worldwide who need only press PrintScrn to capture that moment of indiscretion forever. If in doubt, don’t post.
3. Everything is open to interpretation. I can only hope that one day someone will invent a font to signify irony, but until that happens, communicate with caution. I recently tweeted about the abusive relationship I have with my cat (DISCLAIMER – THE ABUSE IS COMMITED SOLEY BY THE CAT). I was swiftly followed by three regional departments of the RSPCA. Lesson learnt.
4. Social media is not a one way street. Unless you’re a member of One Direction there is no excuse for not replying to your messages. Engage with your followers and they will stick with you. Ignore them and they will take their business elsewhere.
5. An abandoned page is even worse than no page at all. When you’re looking for a company online, the very last thing you want to see is that they gave social media a go, and then gave up. A little effort every day is nothing compared to the potential rewards to be reaped, so stick with it!
6. Be careful who you talk about. On a particularly hot summer’s afternoon in an office on St Martins Lane, a group of Hare Krishna danced past my window. “Wouldn’t it be lovely to be a Hare Krishna” I tweeted, “you could spend all day singing and dancing and not even pay any rent”. Within minutes, I was being inundated with replies trying to persuade me to join the aforementioned movement, with an increasingly aggressive tone. I will be very glad to never again see a tweet signed off with #harekrishna, or even worse #HAREKRISHNAHAREKRISHNAHAREKRISHNA
7. Have a personality, but make it yours. There is a huge temptation to use the safety of a computer screen to create a wild and wonderful online persona. But why pretend? You’re only setting yourself up for a fall if you should ever meet any of your virtual chums. (For an extreme portrayal of the trouble that online fakery might get you into, I highly recommend the film Catfish).
8. Parents do not care about your social (media) life. I accepted my mother’s friend request on Facebook with a considerable amount of trepidation, and rightly so. At first it was brilliant; she liked every fan page that I had ever created and then proceeded to like and share every status, picture and poll that I had ever posted. Then she bought a scanner, and my terrible misshapen toddler face was on the internet for all to enjoy. Forever. (See #2)
9. Behind every account, there is a person. That person may be the CEO of a company, or someone on work experience. By all means tweet a query or complaint, because it’s often the fastest way to reach someone. But remember that there’s a fine line between interacting and trolling, so if you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it online.
10. Enjoy it while it lasts. In another five years who knows what we’ll be doing online. So make the most of the opportunity to interact, start conversations, speak to people you’d be too scared to approach in real life, and show the world just how utterly brilliant your weekend was. I guarantee you’ll miss it when it’s gone.
Any that I’ve missed out? Send in your suggestions below! And if you want to find out whether I’m actually following my own advice, you can find me @Lyndsey_Harvey.