I suppose it had to happen that questions are being asked about how footballers are starting to use Twitter. The problems have arisen because they have said things on Twitter that they would never have publicly stated to the media. They have a public persona and have let social media blur that public face with the comments that they may make in private. It is important not to overreact. This is just the latest celebrity Twitter related controversy but what it does is raise some clear guidance points for organisations who may let staff use the social network site.
1. Understand the social network
If you are going to avoid pitfalls and problems then you need to have a clear grasp of what the social network you are using is about. Who is using it? What is the general atmosphere around it? For those in a public role as a police officer, teacher, council employee it is clear you would never go into a meeting without preparing. You would never approach a situation that you felt untrained for or where you could leave the organisation vulnerable to attack. Social media is the same – it is important to prepare and do your homework before stepping inside.
2. Know why you are doing it
Once you have the information about the social network you are planning to use then you need to consider why you are going to use it. No-one joins a club, group or organisation without being clear about what they want to get from the relationship. No-one would go to see their boss about pay and conditions without being clear what they wanted to walk away with. So, when you sign up to Twitter or Facebook you need to know why you want to use it and what you want to achieve in using it. If you don’t have this straight in your mind then either your use of the site will fade and it will be one of the many dormant accounts, or you will talk about random and unconnected events in your life.
3. You represent your organisation
Whether at home or at work while on Twitter you represent your organisation and the only way to avoid this is to Tweet under a false identity. Once you tell someone you work for a particular organisation everything you do on the network will reflect on that company or business. The things you say and do will be inextricably linked to your work identity. Before you post anything imagine that you are making the same comment in front of your boss or chief executive. Would you be comfortable making the comment in front of them? If not then perhaps you should reconsider posting it.
4. Check on what you are doing
Once you are starting to use the social media that you have chosen then you must keep your activities under review. Look back at what you have for example Tweeted and consider what it says about you. What is the image you are presenting through the words and pictures that you have been put under your name? Are you representing your organisation, business or company in the right way? Ask yourself if you are achieving what you had outlined at the start? If not then perhaps you need to revise how you are using the social network.
5. If in doubt don’t post
We all have bad days and those are usually the times to keep away from all forms of social media. There is nothing worse than sending an email in anger. You press send only to wish you hadn’t. Social media postings magnify that problem by not just distributing it but broadcasting it. Most people learn to place that email into the drafts folder and return to it when they have calmed down or are in a better mood. There is no drafts folder on Twitter so develop the practice of avoiding social networks when you are having a really difficult time, and if in doubt don’t post check it out with a friend. A little restraint is probably going to save you some heartache and in the case of Liverpool footballer Ryan Babel it would have saved him £10,000.
There are some big benefits to be gained by using social media but in entering the online arena you must do it with your eyes wide open, with the knowledge and where possible the support.
Finally, be aware of how you present yourself. It is an important thing in daily life. In the same way that you wouldn’t appear dishevelled, incoherent and disinterested in a media interview, you shouldn’t do the same on social networks. You wouldn’t launch into a rant about an issue in the middle of a meeting at work, you shouldn’t do the same on social networks.
Above all when starting to use social media ask for help, seek advice and guidance from those who have experience and knowledge. Learn from those people, and also from watching others. I am sure lots of footballers and other celebrities will now be questioning how they use social networks and possibly pausing before they press the Tweet button.