My profession affords me the opportunity to work and talk with many entrepreneurs and other leaders about social media. Just as important, I observe their use (or nonuse) of social media.
Twitter remains one of the most popular platforms for people to exchange ideas, promote news and express opinions. I’m a social media enthusiast, but my work in employment law makes me all too aware of the risks inherent in these instant-post tools.
My Top 10 list of costliest mistakes might surprise you. Its entries stem as much from underuse as from misuse.
1. Not using Twitter.
Some entrepreneurs and business leaders still believe social media is a waste of time. Respectfully, they are wrong. This means of communication no longer is cutting-edge. It’s mainstream, and Twitter is firmly at its center. Use it to your advantage.
2. Only sharing.
Some leaders have exuberant spirits. They freely share ideas and thoughts. While sharing is wonderful, it’s only part of the equation. Social media is about connecting, not simply spouting or increasing your profile. Every leader should keep this in mind at all times.
3. Retweeting without reading.
Other people retweet articles or posts seemingly without reading the full content. In these circumstances, a user’s comment might not match the source material. Retweeting without understanding the context can be disingenuous. If there’s bias or offensive conduct in the underlying tweet, this practice also can be dangerous.
4. Following only like-minded individuals.
Talk about diversity often centers on gender, race and other groups (or classes) protected by law. But there’s another crucial aspect to consider. Cognitive diversity offers a different perspective or opinion.
Interacting with only like-minded individuals limits your vantage point. Following those with whom you often disagree will expose you to different views and possibilities.
5. Interacting intermittently.
At the risk of overstating it, you need to be a player. There’s so much social media activity that if you put a toe in the water only occasionally, you aren’t likely to make vital connections. You don’t need to tweet every day, but tweeting once a week isn’t enough to keep up your profile.
6. Attacking others.
From time to time, you’ll see something that produces a strong, negative reaction. It is best not to use social media as a way to attack others. There are polite ways to disagree. Just as in interpersonal matters, sometimes the best response is none at all. Why give more light to an idea you believe belongs in the dark?
7. Responding every time you’re attacked.
Anyone on social media who takes a stand has been attacked. If you counter-punch everyone who is critical of your stance, others might see you as thin-skinned. Pick your battles wisely so you aren’t labeled an insecure snowflake. Strength can come from silence as surely as it can from powerful words.
8. Failing to be transparent.
Federal Trade Commission rules require individuals to disclose when they are promoting products or services with which they are identified. For example, if you’re praising an item your employer manufactures, you must provide this disclaimer. Transparency, though, is much more than a question of satisfying FTC regulations. It’s good business.
9. Not separating the personal from the professional.
All business is personal and all politics are local, as the sayings go. In these hyperpartisan times, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone without at least one or two deeply held beliefs.
If you tweet on political issues or other topics that might be seen as controversial, you’d be well-advised to make it clear your views are yours alone — not those of your employer. It’s easy enough to include that distinction as part of your Twitter profile. Here’s an added caveat: Do not include the name of your employer or company. That only solidifies the precise connection you’re trying to avoid.
10. Tweeting only business-related items.
Social media is a pervasive form of mass communication, and you should be thoughtful about what you tweet. But if you spend all your mental energy trying to please everyone, you won’t really connect with anyone.
As you develop your brand, consider sharing your thoughts or posting articles on issues beyond your business focus. In my personal life, I’m very involved in animal rescue, I love Bruce Springsteen, and I’m mad about “Mad Men.” Expressing myself has led to meeting many kindred spirits — some of whom now are clients, too.