Everyone knows one of those people. Someone who knows the entire story before everyone else and isn't shy about sharing those opinions on social media. They're almost always wrong.
Whether it's something that's at first shocking but eventually makes you chuckle, like one George Papadopoulos mistaken for another George Papadopoulos, or something that makes you cringe, like the president meaning well by thanking a singer but tweeting it to the wrong person with a similar Twitter handle. Or maybe it's something that makes you mourn, like the details of a terrorist attack. These mistakes are preventable nearly every time.
This marks my 10th year doing social media professionally, and I learn something new every day. But here's something I learned early: Battling cases of mistaken identity is one of social media's oldest problems that never seems to go away. I also learned that overcoming it isn't as hard as it seems.
Here are my top 5 tips to make sure you share the right stuff.
1. Stop being so trustworthy. Do you know the person whose content you're sharing? Are they a trusted source? There's a huge difference between tweeting The New York Times, which has millions of followers, and some unknown account that was just created and has 12.
2. Stop retweeting and reposting everything you see. There's this belief that retweeting something isn't an endorsement. Some people go as far as putting this nonsense in their profiles. It's completely untrue. You are responsible for everything you share, including retweets and reposts. Retweeting is as good as saying it yourself, even if you didn't say it.
3. WATCH OUT FOR ALL CAPS AND MULTIPLE EXCLAMATION MARKS! These kinds of posts, even during a heightened event, should be approached with caution. Usually when someone wants to grab your attention so badly in the hopes you'll share, the message isn't accurate.
4. Trust compliance. This will vary depending on where you work and what you do, but compliance departments have been known to pre-approve social media postings ahead of time, which in theory should take the work out of you having to do all of this. I think it's a good tool to have in the toolbox if it's available to you, but I don't think it should be universally accepted as a guarantee of accuracy. At the end of the day, you are always responsible for what you post on your account (see No. 4).
5. Take a breath. I've repeated the following to millions of people online and tens of thousands more in real life: Being first is one thing. Being right is everything.
This came as a shock in my world, where being first can be good for business. But what's not good for business is having to issue corrections when you are wrong — especially if being wrong was preventable. Check the source you are quoting or promoting. Do a quick Google search. Check snopes.com to see if it lists a myth that has been debunked or confirmed.
Bottom line: I hope you'll embrace all 5 tips, but the most important is the last. Taking a breath to organize your thoughts before you share can make all the difference. And don't worry if it doesn't come naturally to you; it's a gut thing that develops over time and with practice.
If you have a social media question or an idea for a column topic, please let me know. Tweet them to me with the hashtag #socialmediaadviser or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.