At the 2011 International LCT Show, my first, I heard Super Bowl-winning coach Dick Vermeil give a keynote called "Seven Common Sense Principles of Leadership." One thing that stuck with me from that speech was the concept that “common sense isn't that common.” It may sound strange, but it's true, especially when it comes to social media.
It's a beautiful thing when a company or company executive uses a social network to engage in a meaningful conversation with clients. But it can be unsettling when a company, executive or employee shares things that are too personal and inappropriate for public broadcast.
Social media is an extension of public relations, and businesses need to understand how to balance a professional image with personal engagement.
On personal social networks that consist mainly of family and friends, it's usually okay to gripe about a hangover or share details about one's dating life. But when mere acquaintances or complete strangers are part of your social network, which can happen when businesses get on social media, there could be serious consequences of sharing too much information. A seemingly innocent post could be deemed offensive or inappropriate by clients and could harm the company's image.
So what constitutes “too much”? My common sense rule of thumb is this: If you wouldn't share it during a sober networking event or business meeting, don't share it on social media.
It helps to avoid talking about politics, religion or other sensitive subjects. The Internet has allowed us all an open forum to voice our opinions, and as members of the free world we should speak our minds with zest and fervor, but there is a time and place for that outside the business realm. If you find it difficult to refrain from being too personal on social media, consider creating a separate profile for your “professional” identity and consider every action from the viewpoint of a consumer, not a close friend.