Social media offline: What are the rules?

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Should I post this to social media? Is that OK to say? We sometimes – I hope all the time – ask ourself this before posting something to any of our social channels.

Oftentimes, we feel connected to what we said. These are our thoughts. Our life experiences. Where we’ve been. What we thought of a meal. The list goes on and on.

Have you noticed, though, how we talk about what we’ve tweeted and Facebooked offline, too, now?

I routinely hear speakers or facilitators at events or meetings mention one network or another. Typically, it’s Facebook or Twitter.

Some examples

Facilitators saying: “I just tweeted this and… ” here’s how that relates to this session. I do a version of this quite frequently. Usually, after somebody asks a question.

“Interesting that you would ask. I just tweeted about that last week.” And then, of course, I answer the question.

Sometimes it comes up in the context of where people have seen news. “I saw on Facebook that …”

When social media is truly integrated facilitators will share their social media handles with groups and offer to connect. Of course, in larger sessions it’s nice to have a specific hashtag that the audience can use to connect.

Sometimes, social media comes up in the context that people don’t want something shared publicly.

“Here’s a private story. Please don’t tweet it.”

Personally, if I talk to or facilitate a group discussion I just assume that everything I say may be tweeted, Facebooked or blogged about. It’s just easier to keep track of what was public and what wasn’t if everything is.

The rules

When I worked as a reporter years ago, sources wanted to go on and off the record all the time. On the record meant that I could quote them. Off the record meant that I couldn’t. You might imagine that this could get tricky for reporters, editors and sources when those rules aren’t defined well. Or when you constantly switch back and forth.

For example: What if a source tells a reporter that something is off the record but the reporter didn’t agree? Is it really off the record? As a communicator who has worked as a reporter and a public spokesperson I wouldn’t bet on it. It’s only off the record if both sides agree. And how do you get there? You define the rules ahead of time: Here’s what we do to go off the record. Agreed? Agreed!

Perhaps – and this is just a draft idea, of course – at the beginning of presentations the facilitator shares his or her preferred social media rules/guidelines.

Now, if a session is broadcasted live over the Internet, I don’t think anyone would follow a no-tweeting rule. But if it’s a smaller group session where participants are sharing personal stories perhaps that’s a rule the group should discuss.

At the very least the speaker to a larger and clearly public discussion could say something like this:

Please know that this session is public. You can find my slides and other materials on my website at (give the address).

Also, I’m (insert Twitter handle) on Twitter and you may choose to connect with me on LinkedIn and Facebook. (You may not choose all those options but you could. Just make sure to tell them your name on those networks.)

Finally, if you choose to tweet about this session please use this hashtag (insert hashtag). Come up with a relevant hashtag for the session. Check search.twitter.com to make sure it’s not being used yet. Or alternatively you could ask people to mention you in each tweet.

It’s a wrap

Social media, including blogging, is great to connect, share thoughts and get answers to questions you may not have gotten elsewhere.

It might be helpful if we are aware of other’s expectations, too.