Public Speaking: Responding to Social Media


Wow, what a blunder! Could you believe that post on Facebook in response to that other post? What was he thinking?

What post? I’ll bet that when you started reading that, something came to mind for you. It might have been something you read, something you wrote, or just something you heard about. Either way, the propensity of on-line communications has made people more comfortable typing things they would probably never say in a room with other humans.

In fact, there are three key rules you should really pay attention to before you post any responses, especially when you’re unhappy with something you’ve read:

1. Wait 12 hours to put your post out there.
– You’re not getting paid for your opinions, so they cannot be late.
– The 3 “Way to stick it to the man!” comments will never outweigh the damage to your credibility from 300 people wondering “What were you thinking?”
– Don’t worry if someone posts what you were going to post. No one is first every time.

2. Discuss the ideas, not the person.
– Unless it’s actually Hitler, treating the person behind the post like they are evil won’t pay off.
– If you credibly talk about the problem, readers will pay attention to your solution.
– If you spend you time name-calling, most readers won’t finish the post. Or come back.

3. Never post anything you wouldn’t say or show to your boss, and to their boss too.
– When in doubt, try it: send a draft version to someone you trust.
– Use the same restraint that you would in person. Yes, it’s hard.
– Remember, once you post it, it could last forever.

What prompted this post? If you must know, I read something this morning that really bothered me. I mean really! I wanted to walk outside and chuck a dart across the country to pop someone’s bubble in another state. See, I was so mad that I couldn’t even make sense. So what did I do? You know it, I made a post in response. It really wasn’t too bad, but I compared this decision with “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory…” Yes…yes…I know, that’s pretty rough prose.

When I checked my post with a couple of people, I learned that there were facts I hadn’t found on a related site (in this case, the LinkedIn post was updated and the Facebook post I had read wasn’t). So what happened? I followed rule 2 and 3, but if I hadn’t decided to follow rule 1,this would be tomorrow’s post talking about what a blunder I made last night. I’m really glad I took the 12-hour break before I submitted it, because my inaccurate response would have been tagged fast.

Take your time, talk about content not character, and keep your tone professional. ’nuff said.

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