I was just reminded of an important lesson. It is a lesson I know but nonetheless botched up. It is an important lesson in personal brand management, especially in a world where our fingers often click buttons a little faster than our brains process thoughts. This is important right now because I am about to embark on a series of engagements where I am endeavoring to help small business owners put social media to work for their businesses. Part of that process is to help them learn to use social media in a way that amplifies the benefits while minimizing the risk of mistakes.
And yet I made a mistake. Something of a rookie move no less.
I am fairly disciplined in how I use social media. I am only a sporadic Twitter user, dusting it off now and then in a flurry of tweets and then going dormant again. I more frequently use LinkedIn and Facebook. The former is exclusively for business and latter for personal friendships. I try not to mingle the two – to the point where I don’t seek Facebook friendships from co-workers or companies I work for. It’s my way of partitioning my personal brand for various constituency groups, just the way a corporate brand might talk to different stakeholders in different ways.
As a result of my partitioning I have a clear sense of how my cross-posting between platforms is ‘mapped’. I try not to bore my friends with professional talk or spam my business colleagues with pictures of my kids, chatter about my latest mud run excursion or images of the geeky arcana I find online. Most of the time it’s a cut and dry split and all works harmoniously together.
Coming home from a business trip recently though, I was very frustrated on my flight. It was hot, late, crowded, loud and I really just wanted to get home. I said as much in a quickly dashed off, and coarsely-worded Tweet which through a fat-fingering gaff in Hootsuite found its way to my LinkedIn page. There, some people whose respect is very important to me caught wind of it. It was very embarrassing to say the least.
In the presentation I am putting together I make a point of noting that mistakes happen in social media conversations just as they do in “real life” conversations. And just as with face to face dialog, no mistake need be permanent. One can always take measures to rectify a situation.
I’m trying to practice what I preach here. In my mind, if you make a mistake in social media – whether as a person or a company – you should cop to it straight away. As long as you’re sincere, people – colleagues, customers or friends – will understand 99.9% of the time because we’ve all made similar gaffs ourselves.
So, to those people who I wish hadn’t read that momentary burst of tired frustration I tapped onto the Internet a while back. My apologies. The moment got the best of me but you can bet I have no intentions of letting it happen again.