Four Dangerous Assumptions to Make in Social Media

Alyssa Gregory

There is a lot of discussion about “best practices” in social media, and the best ways to use social networking sites. When you step away from the proper usage recommendations, though, and into everyday use, the problem isn’t the messaging or use of these sites, the problem can be the way your messages are perceived on the other side, without you even knowing.

Even if you are very clear about your goals and uses of social networking sites and cater your messages accordingly, you never really know what observers will think about what you’re putting out there.

We all make assumptions about who is reading, what people will think and how they will react, and that creates the boundaries we use to decide what to post and not post. But it doesn’t always work out how we intend. Here are some of the assumptions I’ve seen made that have the potential to backfire horribly.

1. My clients who aren’t active in social media won’t see my messages.

I have seen many, many freelancers and business owners make disparaging comments about clients who don’t have social media accounts, usually in spur-of-the-moment frustration about work or communication. And I’ve seen several of them having to explain, retract and apologize for those comments.

In many cases, a person doesn’t need an account on a social media site to read updates, and a client who you may not think is very technology-savvy can still stumble across your accounts and read your postings. Or worse, an employee, colleague or family member could fill them in on comments that have been made.

2. I have a private personal-only account, so anything goes.

With all of the privacy issues and confusion in social media these days, I think it’s fair to say that everything you post in social media has the ability to see the light of day. Even if you have taken every step possible to ensure your content is private, you never know when someone you’re connected with will share something you’ve posted publicly, negating all privacy measures you have in place.

3. That controversial comment was just a joke, everyone knows that.

It’s easy to sit in the social media bubble and feel secure that you know of everyone who is following your updates. You do, after all, get notified when you get a new follower or friend request. Remember, though, that there may be people tracking your updates and posts without revealing it to you, and you never know how an off-color joke could be perceived by someone you didn’t even know was watching.

4. All of my followers/friends know that I’m [fill in the blank].

You know what’s going on in your life, and your good friends and family that you communicate with on social media sites know what’s going on with you. But when you post something that could potentially have a very different meaning without the back story, you run the risk of being ill-perceived. This doesn’t mean you need to censor yourself, just that it’s probably smart to run your comments through a quick filter so you’re at least aware of potential misunderstandings.

What are some of the assumptions you’ve seen made in social media that can be harmful?

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