Rapacz: A primer on developing social-media discipline
We may have most of the answers regarding the bizarre story of the fake, dead girlfriend of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o (though we can’t be sure yet). All indications are that Te’o was a victim rather than a perpetrator — taken advantage of in an elaborate scheme by a male acquaintance.
Though the story has faded from the headlines, a curious public will continue to follow it, hoping for more tantalizing disclosures.
But social-media stories such as this are a good reminder that we should review our social-media use and personal rules of conduct.
Social-media platforms provide fun ways to socialize and share a lot of information quickly and easily — allowing us to connect with friends, participate in a variety of online groups and feed our sense of belonging.
But it’s important to take a broader perspective about your online profile. The audience you are sharing information with isn’t just your set of friends. And it changes over time.
Your online profile likely is to be used by employers, club leaders, coaches, admissions counselors, etc. Right or wrong, they are likely to use your profile in deciding whether you fit into a company or organization.
If you’re a high school student, you’re probably not thinking about a human resources department worker for a future employer poking around your Facebook pages in search of something inappropriate.
You are what you post. Everything you do via social media becomes part of your permanent online footprint and works collectively to create an impression about what type of person you are.
Your collection of pictures, posts, comments and “likes” are all used by people to shape an opinion about you. Even the friends you have and their activity affects your reputation.
In the consumer marketplace, brands are very careful about their image in every marketing channel, realizing that every interaction with customers and potential customers creates an impression with the audience. One negative incident may cause damage to the brand that is hard to repair.
Because you control your “personal brand,” you can borrow lessons from corporate marketers to guide your online activity to create a favorable online presence.
In my “Branding You” workshops, I guide people to think about the following questions to establish personal online guidelines:
What image do you want to portray? What is it that you want your audience to think about you? (Remember that your audience is more than your close friends.)
What makes you unique? What mix of school, sports, social causes and individual social activities do you want to share? How can you stand out from the crowd?
Who should you accept in your social circles or as friends? Why? I have different rules for different social-media tools.
For example, I think of LinkedIn as an electronic Rolodex. Anyone I meet who I might want to contact again for business, I accept as a connection. I use more stringent rules for Facebook, only “friending” someone I am willing to have lunch with once a year.
What will you post? Think through what I call the 3 Ts of posting social-media content —type, tone and timing.
What type of photos, likes and comments will you post? When will you post them? What tone or attitude will you use when you write? Will you ever use profanity? How will you react when people disagree with you?
What shouldn’t you post? Avoid posting personal information such as your phone number, address, school ID number, etc., via social media. Use more private channels to share that selectively. Ask yourself if there are certain topics or types of content you should avoid posting.
What privacy settings do you have set? Are you aware of the privacy settings that are available on each of the social-media platforms you use? What rules do you have about sharing data on each tool? How often do you check your settings?
Reflecting on these questions can help you establish personal rules that add discipline to your online activity and work to build the impression you want to create to your online friends and extended audience.
To learn more about shaping your personal brand online, consider attending our free “Branding You” workshop from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28. Contact me at email@example.com.
Deb Rapacz is a marketing and communications consultant and a marketing instructor at the Graham School of Business at St. Xavier University in Chicago.