You have probably seen enough instances of immaturity in the Social Media channels to make you feel like this is nothing more than a digital kindergarten.
Personally, I still believe this to be one of the major reasons why the more senior executives and professionals of industry shy away from publishing their thoughts in these channels. Because the online channels are so personal, you wind up seeing people and their true colors shine (in a not-so-pretty way). More often than not, their indiscretions and acts of unprofessionalism (even when they fall into the minority based on their overall presence) casts them in a very different/negative light.
Be more like a journalist.
If you don't like the idea of being a journalist, then just consider (for a moment) taking some time (and it doesn't need to be a lot of time) to get more media savvy. The more media savvy you are, the more the likelihood will be that you will take that extra second before tweeting something, updating you Facebook status or publishing that Blog post to ensure that the information you are about to share with everyone connected to you is as accurate and reliable as possible.
Let's do this without removing the humanity of it all.
This is not a plea to turn every tweet and Blog post into something that looks like an op-ed piece in the Sunday edition of The New York Times. This is much more about accepting the very powerful gift we have all been given to publish our thoughts in text, images, audio and video instantly (and for free) for the world to see.
Here's how to get more media media savvy in 6 steps...
- Spelling and grammar. While it was once not a critical part of the Blogging world, proper spelling and grammar is now an important part of being taken seriously. I often make spelling and grammar mistakes, and I'm thankful to the many people who email, tweet or message me with the corrections. That being said, I do try to edit the content as much as possible prior to pushing it out there.
- Be skeptical. How many celebrities have been announced dead on Twitter only for it later to be revealed that it was a mistake? And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Because anyone can publish content, everyone must become that much more skeptical of content we see. This means that you have to dig - just a little bit.
- Check sources. This doesn't mean that you have to call BP to find information about an oil spill if it's being discussed online, but it wouldn't kill you to click on a link before retweeting it - just to ensure that it links to the right piece of content, and that it's something you would be proud to share with your connections.
- Ask questions. If you read or follow something that doesn't sit well with you, ask, probe and push your community for their insights and thoughts. Beyond that, always remember that those who ask questions (and lots of them) are usually the ones who come up with the most interesting answers and understanding on a specific topic.
- Don't blow your fuse. People often tweet or post "in the moment" - as something is happening to them. While this is an important part of Social Media, it's also important to take a deep breathe, cool down and really think about what you're about to post. Passion running high is critical. Passion without thinking it through and be critically damaging.
- Be personable. Don't become a robot and don't take these points to mean that you should change your style, flow or content. You should use these concepts to add to your arsenal. To make you better. To make you a more effective communicator (because once you publish anything, that's exactly what you are).
Many people don't know that my professional career started off in journalism and magazine publishing (over two decades ago). I learned many valuable lessons in those formative years. These included lessons about writing, editing, interviews, mass media, new media, publishing, advertising, marketing, etc... but the biggest lesson of all was listening, learning and reading. I not only create media (for our clients at Twist Image and for myself), but I'm a constant and continuous student of media.
The more media savvy you get, the better the media that you are producing will become.