Input on Social Media Use

October 2020
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In my June column, we focused on whether or not to friend your boss or colleagues on social media and how some PRSA members manage it. That piece generated a large amount of feedback from readers telling me they wished that the piece had focused on how some PR pros use social media.

Their comments reminded me of a unique dynamic for this column. Lots of readers have opinions on the things we discuss here, but not everyone wants to go on the record. While their views are not controversial, mindful of their employers, they don’t want to take public positions on certain topics.

Still, I think it’s worth sharing some of the input I received with you since three distinct observational patterns emerged.

Consider your politics.

If you start a social media post with, “Not to be political ... ,” then it’s political. Of course, there are variations of this, such as, “I don’t mean to get political,” or “This isn’t intended to be political.” It doesn’t matter.

If something inside you prompted you to consider that your post could be perceived as political, then you should know that you actually are venturing into political subject matter, and those magic words won’t change anything.

You’re not only about to get political, but you’re probably going to take a stand on one side of a polarizing issue that will alienate some. If you don’t want to be political, it may be best not to create the post.

Beware of the humble brag.

This is when you self-promote by telling a brief story about how hard something was for you, or how the odds were stacked against you, and somehow you came out on top.

While many people love to hear stories like that, members told me they prefer it better when the storytellers are talking about someone else, not themselves. But even then, there is a caveat. Some have mastered the art of the indirect humble brag to the point that while the “star” of the story could be someone else, the storyteller always seems to be a featured player.

An example is when the storyteller posts something like this, “I’m so happy for this young PR pro who I’ve mentored and am proud of her accomplishments.” If you are truly proud of that young PR pro, make your praise about them, not you.

Don’t crowdsource your work to others.

The theme here is not that more PR pros are turning to their colleagues on social media to solicit help from others, but rather how they do it.

While most of those I talked to admit they do this themselves, they say there is a line on how to ask for help on social media, and more people are crossing it. More to the point, that line is when the poster asks other people to do their work for them.

One example was when a client hired a consultant to create a digital marketing plan. That consultant then made a general request to other PR pros asking them to share samples of their own finished plans. This kind of thing was framed by those I talked to as being akin to “borrowing” someone else’s work and then getting paid for it.

This can be a fuzzy area. The beauty of social media is the interactive and sometimes collaborative atmosphere it can create. But just as when we work side-by-side in an office setting, when we expect others to do the thinking, and sometimes the creating for us, well, that may be a bit much.

What do you think? Are there times when you think some social media posts are better left unposted? Shoot me an email or a tweet at @OBrienPR, and make sure to keep @PRSAtactics in the loop!

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