To tweet or not to tweet: The professional’s question(s)

Today’s post is brought to you by the word:

circumspect [sur-kuhm-spekt] /ˈsɜrkəmˌspɛkt/

adjective

1. watchful and discreet; cautious; prudent: circumspect behavior.
2. well-considered: circumspect ambition.

_________________________________________________________________

Want to know more about using social media like Twitter for professional information and collaboration? See the top right sidebar for links to the entire blog series —->

 

Whether you are using social media for professional, personal, or a combined purpose, each professional needs to think carefully about what persona they are ‘putting out there’ onto the web and who might (will) see this persona. This becomes especially sticky when you are engaging online for personal and professional combined, but I have found that it may also be sticky for those of us only using social media professionally. It can also be problematic for those who are only using social media for personal, but who happen to be professionals. So, basically, if you are a professional and you’re also using social media (especially Twitter) for ANY purpose, you should be making informed decisions about what content you put out there and how you present yourself.

So which are you?

Most of you are pretty sure if you are using social media primarily for professional purposes. However, if you are unsure, here’s a quick litmus test: if you are engaging other professionals (SLPs, AUDs, teachers, etc.) in any capacity to share ideas and information or to ask questions about the profession, you are using social media for professional purposes.

The following are some grey areas that surround the use of social media as a professional. I want to present them for your consideration so that you can be sure you consider your actions/words/persona carefully and make the best decision about social media use for you that you know you can feel good about. This will be a personal decision and everyone’s idea of what’s OK will be different. First of all, take a moment to Google yourself …  Are you happy with what you found? If not, what can you do to ensure that everything is content you can be proud of (or at least not ashamed of)?

Making the best decisions for you

Here are three questions a professional should always be asking themselves whenever they post something to the internet as a whole (regardless of the platform: Twitter, Blog, Facebook, discussion forum, or otherwise).

1) How does this content reflect on me as a person and as a professional? Could it jeopardize others’ opinions of me?

This boils down to the age old problem of people saying things in the ‘anonymity of the internet’ that they would NEVER say to someone’s face. The problem is the internet is not so anonymous anymore, especially if you are using it in any sort of professional capacity. Even if you recognize that you aren’t completely anonymous, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of saying things in a conversation that you wouldn’t normally say in ‘mixed professional company’ as it were. Conversations within social media are not private, or even limited to the pseudo ‘party’ you may feel you are a participant of ‘in the moment’. They are open to everyone. This is the glory of social media – the open sharing.

This open sharing can also be the downfall to your reputation if you say things that could offend, upset, or otherwise paint you a negative or unprofessional light. I don’t mean being colloquial with “you rock” or participating in off topic conversation sometimes – being authentic and developing real relationships is vital to social media success. Please don’t come to Twitter, Facebook, or your blog with a false and/or overly distant professional persona that isn’t the authentic you. However, should we make off colour jokes amongst ourselves? Should we say angry or accusatory things to or about others?  Where is the line between quietly debating controversial issues and saying inflammatory things about those issues?

2) Who will read this and what will/could they interpret?

We tend to get caught up in the moment within social media platforms and that’s not always a bad thing. But for the most part those moments are etched in stone (discs) for a long time (‘forever’ seems somewhat hyperbolic to say just now). Anyone/everyone has access to read what you’ve said far outside of the moment. Could what you’ve said be misconstrued detrimentally? What if you say something about someone and they read it? Or someone connected to them reads it? What if a parent (even one you’re not involved with) reads it? Could what you say reflect poorly on you or the profession from their point of view? Could real life colleagues/families misinterpret the more low key and friendly relationships that social media engenders in the online community? Could your employees misinterpret anything you’ve said or any friendships you have online?

If the people and families you serve, your real life colleagues, a current or future employer/employee, or your online colleagues would be upset, offended, or think less of you or your profession as a result, I’d refrain from saying it much less typing it into the internet. Say things you would ALWAYS say to someone’s face and in a public meeting, because that is what you are doing in social media as well! Everyone’s idea of what’s appropriate or OK will be somewhat different. At least be sure you are OK with everything you’ve said from the perspective of others and any fallout that may occur.

3) Will this build up others within and outside my PLN or tear people down?

People are flocking to social media platforms to share and be inspired. There is no room for negativity or trashing of others in a professional online community. I’ve found that consistent negativity, even about inane things in your life, tends to drive people away in the online community. Also, attacking others or being aggressive toward others is not tolerated. Please refer back to the first question above.

Social media is not a good platform for professionals to vent or rant either; especially on a regular basis. Venting only pulls others down or gets people exasperated with you and it’s not why others are online to share with each other. Seeking support from your PLN is not the same thing as venting, however. The difference is in your approach to the problem you are facing at the moment.

People come to social media platforms to share ideas and energy, to gain a positive outlook, and seek help and support to change things for the better. Let’s build up the staff and families we work with as well as each other!

We’re human

So, I’m sure I’ve messed up some of what I’ve just talked about once or 20 times. I’m human and so are you. I also expect you to mess up occasionally.  Not in earth shattering, reputation destroying ways, but in little ways that make me disappointed in myself occasionally. In that case I make a concerted effort to fix my mistakes, delete a few tweets, and monitor myself more carefully. Engaging in regular self reflection is how we grow as professionals. It’s asking yourself the questions that is the most important thing!

Protecting your tweets

This is yet another personal decision.  It certainly helps to smooth over instances when you may act less than professionally online. However, anything you say on the internet, be it in private or in public, can be copied and pasted by someone else very easily.  Also, protecting your tweets limits you a great deal in fostering and participating in professional dialogue online.

What do you think?

What other sorts of questions should professionals be asking themselves in online interactions? What else would you recommend professionals consider in social media?