Berin’s Rules for Social Media

In seeking a way to balance staying in touch with friends, communicating with readers and customers, and maintaining a reasonable level of productivity, I’ve been working on guidelines for social media use. These are for both personal and professional use, recognizing that the nature of my life is such that the boundary between the two is incredibly blurry. All of these guidelines are subject to change as the needs of my life and my work change. I’m posting them below because others might want to adapt them to their own purposes. So, here are Berin’s Rules for Social Media. If you share, please link and provide attribution.

Before I post anything online, I ask myself these questions:

1. Does this comment help my readers?

In this instance, “readers” includes anyone who might see the post, not just some hypothetical target audience.

We all need to express ourselves, get things off of our chests, and seek some empathy and compassion once in a while. That’s for our own benefit. We might try to convince ourselves that we’re sharing valuable information, but we really just want to rant and get something out of our system. That sort of expression doesn’t help anyone else, though. In the spirit of trying to put more positive things into the world, be the change and all of that, this will be my first filter. If I’m not providing something of value for other people, it doesn’t need to be expressed publicly.

2. Does this comment help my business?

In this instance, “business” means both Dancing Lights Press and my personal reputation as a professional writer and publisher.

Ideally, all posts should pass the first filter. This second question is more about appropriateness, and the way I present myself to the world. Even if the information posted is useful, the tone in which it is presented might provide the wrong impression of who I am and what I am about. If it runs the risk of needlessly offending people, creating undue controversy, or making me look like a fool, it might need to be rephrased but probably doesn’t need to be said.

3. Does this comment help the person I’m talking to?

In this case, “person I’m talking to” is probably a specific individual in a conversation, but has to extend to anyone reading the exchange.

In the broadest sense, this again goes back to number 1 in that it should be useful. The larger question is whether providing this information in a public forum is going to be helpful to them, and not somehow embarrass, belittle, or degrade them. It might be something better expressed in a private message rather than publicly. If it is something that can be useful to many people, it might be best presented in a separate post not directed at or associated with any individual.

4. Does this comment help the person I’m talking about?

In this case, “person I’m talking about” will most likely be a specific individual or perhaps a group of like-minded people.

The obvious question is why I’m talking about someone in a public space. If it’s to wish them happy birthday, congratulate them on some accomplishment, or plug their new book, that’s appropriate. Anything else should probably happen in a private message, if I’m reaching out to people who can help the person I’m talking about. Otherwise, I should communicate directly with the person, or keep my mouth shut. No gossip.

5. Does this comment need to be made by me?

There are a lot of facets to this particular guideline. Assuming it’s made it through all of the above filters, is it my story to tell? Does it relate to the way I want to present myself, or is it somehow relevant to the business I’m in or the life I lead? Most importantly, is this something that’s already been heavily shared, and if so am I bringing anything new to the table or just jumping on a bandwagon?

6. Does this comment need to be made by me now?

Timing is everything. A comment might be inappropriate if it’s too soon, in which case it probably doesn’t pass filter #2 and this is just a failsafe. It might be old news, so unless it’s somehow relevant again or there’s a compelling reason to add a new perspective it doesn’t need to be said. Finally, is this something I should maybe think about for a bit before hitting send, because my buttons are being pushed and I’m reacting more emotionally than I should?

I want to acknowledge Craig Ferguson’s Does This Need to Be Said? and Marshall Goldsmith’s What Got You Here Won’t Get You There for their influence on these guidelines.

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2 thoughts on “Berin’s Rules for Social Media

  1. Best way I find to keep productive time, well, productive is to focus in chunks. For this bit of time, I’m going to focus on doing this thing and just ignore everything else (except maybe someone banging on the office door if I’m at work). Then I take a moment, check e-mails or any site I want to visit, then go back to doing something productive again. Referring to your last post, a sort of periodic monasticism.

    You just fell into one of these ‘sweep round’ moments, when I tired of the review I was writing and looked at e-mail. Now I shall re-focus and finish the review 🙂

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