During the Spring of my junior year in high school, I applied to a local craft store. I needed money (what high schooler doesn’t?), I loved crafting, I loved the idea of a discount on my crafting supplies, and I knew I could do a good job. After all, I had played store from the time I was a kid. As luck would have it, I got the job after 1 interview. The primary lesson I learned during that time is that people really need to make sure they have a censor button. In the new online era, this lesson is more vital than ever.
You said what?!?
My friends and family have heard these stories a million times, but they may be new to you. There are 2 stories that really encapsulate for me why censor buttons are really good ideas, whether in real life or online. Both of these particular stories were from my retail days and resulted from the fact that I am under 4’11.
One slow day, I had been looming around, picking things up off the ground, straightening the shelves, basically doing anything in my power to look busy. If corporate came in and saw you not looking busy (even if there were no customers in the store) you would apparently get eaten by dragons.
Whenever I would leave the vicinity of the cash register, I had to put out a little bell. On this day, I heard the bell ring, so I headed on over. A gentleman was just standing there. I kept waiting for him to put his items on the counter.
“Well, aren’t you gonna stand up?” He asked me.
It’s important to note that I actually WAS standing. Somehow, I managed to explain to him (I can’t remember how) that I was standing, but sometimes standing-up people are not all the same size. I’m not sure if my message got through.
The setting for story 2 was a busy night, right as we were trying to get the last of the customers taken care of so we could start closing. As I was helping a woman with her giant roll of upholstery fabric, she asked me the following question:
“Do you store your shoes in an index card box?”
I am not sure I even responded to that one. In the years since I’ve gotten a lot of great ideas about how I could have, or maybe even should have, responded, but I was left blank at the time.
In both of these instances, I don’t think the people were malicious. I think they just talked without thinking. Their mouths were engaged and their brains were not. They did not have a censor button.
How this applies to Social Media
Imagine if these stories had occurred online. What if I was able to link you to a name and a Twitter handle as I told those stories? Those people would be tied to their moment of insensitivity forever.
That’s exactly what I don’t want to happen to you.
Why you need a censor button and how to use one
So first, here are five reasons to make sure you have a censor button as you engage in Social Media.
- On Twitter, unless your account is locked down, anything you say is not just public, it’s searchable. Often out of context.
- People can very easily spread things that you say to people who don’t even know you. This, as you might imagine, can have dastardly effects on your personal and brand reputation
- Something that you say in jest can be taken seriously if someone doesn’t know you well – especially if they have never heard your voice and therefore don’t know your tonality.
- If what you say is deemed super offensive, even if you didn’t mean it that way, you can be unfollowed, blocked, reported, and you can gain a reputation for being crude, offensive, insensitive, and many other things.
- You never know someone’s full back story. Saying something about them when you don’t know them super well can result in you saying something that they consider deeply hurtful. Be sure before you speak.
Now, with those five reasons in mind (and there are many more), how can you engage while using your censor button? Here are some ideas.
- Always take that extra second to look at what you typed. Now, sometimes people can take offense and there’s just no way you could have known, but to the best of your ability, read everything you do from someone else’s perspective – someone who doesn’t know you
- Unless you know someone really well, don’t talk sarcastically. It’s often read as you being rude (I have learned this one the hard way over the last year)
- Don’t say anything you would refrain from saying in front of your grandmother, your boss, or both
- Don’t talk about someone’s personal life until you are really sure you have established a friendship with them. You never know what someone’s hot buttons could be, and you don’t want to find out the hard way
In the world of Social Media, all you have to do to communicate with someone is type some words on your computer or whatever device you use. Because of that, it’s extremely easy to say things you don’t mean or to be perceived in ways you don’t want to be perceived.
Would you want to appear in a blog where your name is tied to stories like the ones I shared with you? I seriously doubt it.
That scenario is avoidable. Be careful. Be thoughtful. Stop before you hit publish or tweet or update and make sure you are okay with being tied to those words. Every time.
It’s worth it, no?
This is post #5 in The Engagement Series. Are you finding this series useful so far? Do you have ideas or questions you want me to cover? Let me know!
Image by Gabriella Fabbri. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/duchesssa