Once upon a time (2006), in a land far, far away (California), there lived the man who sent the world's first tweet. "just setting up my twittr," wrote Jack Dorsey, one of Twitter's founders.
A lot has changed since then. Twittr is called Twitter. An average of 500 million tweets are sent each day. Mr. Dorsey went from first tweeter to company CEO. And social media in general grew from something you used if you were in school or in Silicon Valley to a mainstream behemoth used by you, me, grandparents, celebrities and even the president of the United States.
And with that growth came the need for rules, or, better stated, best practices. Some people are good about following them, others not so much. How do you know what you should believe and what's being too cautious? That's why I'm here. As your Social Media Adviser, I promise not to steer you wrong.
So with that, here are my top five things you must avoid doing on social media:
1. Do not say whatever you want on social media.
False: There's a common — and frankly disturbing — misconception that anything you say online after you leave the office is OK because it's your personal time.
True: Like it or not, and as much as you want to, you can't separate professional you from personal you. When you criticize someone or leave a nasty comment on a story, you aren't saying it as just you, but as a member of the financial advice industry. It would be totally fair game for a client to call you out on it, and you're unlikely to have a valid explanation or excuse. And if you think the answer to circumventing these rules is to create an account with a name that no one would guess, I've got news for you: If someone wants to figure it out, they'll figure it out. Don't take the risk; there are consequences you don't want to face.
2. Do not speak to people, speak with them.
False: People are clamoring to hear what's on your mind and want you talk about it whenever it's convenient for you.
True: People appreciate being a part of the conversation. In fact, they expect it. Let's bring this example back to an office setting. You'd never meet a client, sit him or her down, talk at them without letting them say a single word before shaking their hand and sending them on their way. If you did, why would they come back? It's their money, and they should have a say in how it's invested. It's amazing to me how people can't see this when it comes to social media. They think sharing a link once or twice a week and never responding to anyone is sufficient. People who do the minimum on social media exist, but they don't thrive. Engage with your audience and you'll thrive.
3. Do not cross-post to save time.
False: People enjoy seeing the exact same thing on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and everywhere else.
True: Cross-posting, or sharing the same update across platforms to save a few minutes a day, comes across as lazy, and it's bad for business. Also true: The minute someone pegs you as a cross-poster, they'll follow you in one place instead of all of them, because they know they're going to read the same thing multiple times. I've seen many people in the financial advice industry advocate for cross-posting because we're all so busy. Respectfully, all of those people are wrong.
4. Do not share your love of politics/your political opinions.
False: Everyone is a political junkie.
True: It's easy for someone to misread your politically-charged social media post and take it to mean that you stand for something you don't. This might not apply to a business account, but I often see personal accounts that contain some pretty political posts. It's better to share the straight news of the day without adding opinion than risking someone taking your post the wrong way.
5. And speaking of politics … do not use the retweet button like President Trump.
False: What you retweet/share is immune to controversy because you're just reposting someone else's thoughts. Hitting the button is harmless.
True: Retweets are endorsements, despite what you may read in someone's bio and even if you don't mean it that way. Use retweet and share buttons wisely, not as a crutch.
Kudos to you if you walk away from this column thinking it's all common sense and you already know these things. If so, then you're ahead of a lot of other people who think they are immune to these rules. In that case, spread the word by sharing this column and helping someone less fortunate.
If you have a social media question or an idea for a column topic, or if you have thoughts about this column or any previous ones, please let me know. Tweet them to me with the hashtag #socialmediaadviser or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And since we talked so much about what not to do, here's one thing you should do: Remember to follow me on Twitter at @scottkleinberg.
Thanks for reading Social Media Adviser.