In their haste to seem savvy about social media, some very smart people have done some dumb things. Don't join them.
I really want to tell you about my lingerie ... but I'm not going to.
It's true that I've found a certain line of women's underwear that I'm so excited about that, at times, I'm inclined to want to tweet and Facebook about them. But clearly, I don't—because I impose upon myself the common sense "10 second rule."
As a business owner as well as an individual who values some boundaries on her privacy, I take 10 seconds to ask myself, Do I really want the whole world to know this about me? Because in all the haste to seem social media savvy, I've seen a lot of smart people do, say and post a lot of things they may come to regret later.
Online, you see--and social media is far from the exception--just about everything you post is public and permanent. Some people (certain celebrities, for example) make no bones about this. They want you to know everything about their lives.
But when you run a business, you're responsible for more than just yourself—and what you post can have deeper consequences than just personal embarrassment.
(Yes, this person is a real live business owner, according to their bio.)
If you integrate one account into another (Twitter into LinkedIn, for example), you might even post content in a platform where such content is truly inappropriate:
And what you might think is private, really might not be. Go to the website Openbook, for example, and type in panties to see all those whose unprotected Facebook profiles are also mentioning this word.
I'm not writing today to harp on the notion of privacy--we can save that for another day. There are a lot of great ways in which social media can be used in business. Heck, I wouldn't be here writing this column for you if there weren't.
Instead, I want to focus on social media in business--particularly for entrepreneurs--and common sense. When considering using social media, entrepreneurs should keep a few important things in mind:
1. Have a Purpose
OK, I get it that some business entrepreneurs want to enter the world of social media so at the very least they can understand it. The problem is, after the low barrier to entry presented by setting up an account, many are off to the races without having a clear intent ... and they may be dragging their whole business into their wacky world of randomness.
While it's much more advisable to have a strategy for using social media, even being able to clearly state why you're participating and how it will benefit your business will get you off on the right foot.
2. Beware of the Black Hole
Social media can really divert your productivity plans if you're not careful. If you start using Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn during the day, you may literally want to set a beginning and end time so you don't get too diverted from other deadlines. I've used an egg timer as an experiment, and you'll be surprised at how fast the time disappears. This productivity problem applies to your employees, too, by the way.
3. It Isn't All About You
Seriously, do you know how many one-sided interactions I see? People post stuff that's only about themselves or their company and never engage, respond or thank others. If the reason you're getting social as an entrepreneur is to help promote and grow your business, there's no better way to fail than to be self-centered in social. You don't make friends and influence people by walking into a room of strangers and only talking about yourself, so don't do it online either.
4. Remember Your Clients (& Your Grandma)
Don't post anything you wouldn't want your grandmother, clients or employees to read and associate with you. The point to remember here is that while the potential reach of your online audience is vast, those closest to you are most likely to be following, seeing and reading your content. So mind your P's and Q's.
If you want some perspective on social media failures, take a look at this SlideShare on social media disasters posted by IBM. Let's hope we can learn from others' mistakes.
Client advocate, digital strategist, and thought leader HOLLIS THOMASES, founder of Web Ad.vantage, helps companies navigate the complexity of the ever-changing digital marketing landscape and develop digital strategies. @hollisthomases