By: Kate Walter
There has been a lot of talk lately on public relations forums about the etiquette of social media. Most recently, I read an article by Kevin Allen on PR Daily News. Although I agree with his main points about maintaining professionalism on LinkedIn, there were a few interesting comments he made that garnered my interest. Most notably, when he stated, “It sounds ridiculous, but people can really lose respect for you if you post things that are generally reserved for more informal social media outlets. Although we’re all saddened by the tragic events that took place in (insert location here), LinkedIn just isn’t the forum for sending your thoughts and prayers their way. Those expressions, however benevolent, should stay on Facebook or Twitter.”
I admit, that my opinion on this issue may have something to do with the fact that I was one of the early adopters of Facebook back in 2004 and remember how the social media site used to function. Yes, I remember the days when you had to have a college email address to sign up. Back when your aunt, your Mom, your neighbors and every business owner in the world weren’t able to look at your posts and tagged photos from last night’s Frat party. Social media was safe. You existed in a cocoon of your peers. You were surrounded by like-minded individuals who weren’t judging you on your level of professionalism or whether they might potentially hire you. Things have changed.
To get back to Mr. Allen’s comment, it’s interesting how he differentiates LinkedIn as being strictly professional and says that on Facebook and Twitter you are allowed to be more open, more empathetic and more ‘you’. I agree that LinkedIn is considered more of a professional social media site and there are different rules. However, I would argue that even Facebook and Twitter have become forums where self-expression is stifled, as one must consciously be aware of who is viewing your content. Yes, some of this depends on who you’re ‘friends’ with or who ‘follows’ you. Some of this depends on the nature of your job. Another part of this comes down to your settings and what you allow others to see on your social media page and what content you choose to share. But in truth, despite Facebook and Twitter being more accepting of creative posts, personal opinion and benevolent expressions, these social media sites aren’t the same entities they were when they first launched.
Also, when you consider that most individuals connect with the same people across all three of these social media platforms, this differentiation between the social media sites becomes even more blurred. Despite LinkedIn having the pretense of being more professional, if you have access to the content of a persons’ Twitter, Facebook as well, you’re still going to see the professional and ‘unprofessional’ content. And, therefore, your overall view and opinion of this person will still be affected.
It’s a definite conundrum and one that continues to grow as social media continues to grow and change. In addition to Mr. Allen’s tips about using proper etiquette on LinkedIn, I suppose my two cents of advice would be to use the same etiquette on Facebook and Twitter. Or learn how to change your privacy settings.