Rules of communication on social media

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Rules of communication on social media

Sunday, 29 March 2020 | Hory Sankar Mukerjee

Rules of communication on social media

In times when social media is proving to be an important tool of information and expression, it is best to use this medium effectively to build relationships with people in your areas of interest and engage with them. Treat people with the same respect as you would expect from them, writes Hory Sankar Mukerjee

Social media is new opium of our masses. A two-way gate, where you listen to people and connect with people, instantaneously. Almost everyone uses it, in some form or the other, consciously or unconsciously guilty of making mistakes. With its rising popularity comes the challenges of bullying, trolling, circulating fake news, misinformation, violence, FOMO (Fear of missing out) and manipulations of facts. In such volatile environments, the onus cannot be put on ‘no one’, but ‘everyone’. It becomes essential that we act ‘now’ to communicate with a sense of responsibility, empathy, care and compassion. The ‘traffic light’ approach-stop, look and go, is the first check point for you.

Stop: Stop before you read, write and post. Pause for a minute. You probably may want to revisit if you want to read, write or post.

When I started investing, I had an ocean of information floating around, later to realise that I do not have enough bandwidth to read, much of it being repetitive and things I never need to know. I pruned it down to two, saving time. Social media is loaded with information. Everything that you read; you forget some, retain some and use some of this information later. What goes in, eventually, comes out in some form. Ensure that you are reading or writing about things which is worthy of your attention and not garbage for your mind, heart and soul. Would you be more interested to read about a celebrity and his Mauritius vacation or a scientific invention that has the potential to change the world? While both are okay depending on ‘who you are, what you want to read and where your interests lie’, thumb rule is to ‘downplay what you do not want to read’. Keep asking, ‘am I enriching myself by reading this piece of information?’ If yes, move ahead, if no, shun it down or block it. Limit yourself to an area or two that interests you. It could be your hobby, research, work or a social group.

The post that you just read is a wonderful piece and it agrees/disagrees to your established thought processes. Your hand itches to put down some comments, give a ‘piece’ of your mind to the author or laud him. Do you want to spend your precious minutes and is it worth doing it? If you are still not convinced, think about the dog who barks when your car passes by. It really does not matter for both. Irrespective of what role you play (dog or the driver), remember that the dog will forget after your car has passed and the driver will not have a second glance on you. When you are hurt, angry, rejected, dejected, in pain, avoid writing. When you want to vent out your frustration, correct someone who is grossly incorrect, bully someone or troll, rethink your decision. Applauding, appreciating, sharing your thoughts can be done without being a miser or sarcastic.

Stop being a virtual source of junk or a JIJO — Junk In, Junk Out. We have this precarious habit of sending out the information to everyone we know, or ‘think’ we know. Stop being the middleman for junk. People probably may be thoroughly offended with the piece of information shared, and you risk losing your personal brand and reputation. Be careful with your action. First, avoid spreading information unless it comes from an authentic source and second, avoid passing it on to others. If at all you need to, ensure that the information you spread around, is not negatively impacting any person, organisation or group adversely.

Look: Look, if your words or actions would demean someone, socially, physically or mentally. Are you being sarcastic, rude or just posting to have fun at the cost of the other? Is your intention good and acceptable?

If you have now decided to write it down, forward or post, ensure that you have a sanity check in place. Avoid the usage of ‘biased’ words. Ascertain your company’s policies on social networking. Avoid posting or writing on topics related to acts that are defamatory, political, or religious in nature. Ensure that the nature of your post is not damaging you or your organisation’s reputation. Are you oversharing, things which are untrue or unverifiable? Are you reacting to events or incidents, especially when things are flaring up? Are you lying or speaking half the truth? If yes, hold your message back. Remember that your image will be associated with ‘your’ content. Would you like to risk your reputation?

Go: Go, only if you are clear of your conscience that this is now ready for sharing, reading and adds substantial value to your readers. Posting to the social media means exposing yourself to everyone. Remember that some organisations as well as governments take keen interest in what you post. Their decisions as well as your future employment opportunities and your image can be severely affected based on what you post or what your interests are.

Communicating in the world of social media is different and complex. The audience is diverse and can reach out to everyone. You also need to keep doing the right things to keep your audience engaged. Here are some tips that are likely to help you:

Get your facts: Have you done your research for what you want to write. If you want people to read, you will need to engage them in a few words. The relevance of your content would matter the most to your audience. Understand your audience before you write and post. Get the right demographics and their level of understanding. Write content that is original or things that people would not have read anywhere. Your audience will check the ‘freshness’ of your post before it is read till the last.

Choose the right social platform: Choose the right platform. While posting on all platforms seems beneficial, it may not actually have the desired results. Find out what works for you. Do not spend money on a medium (if you are running a business) and forcing it to work for you. What works in Twitter, does not work with Facebook or vice versa.

Talk in a language, they understand: If you are a technology consultant writing a blog, you will need to use terminologies that your audience understand. Ensure that you know for whom you are writing and what you are writing. Keep it simple, precise and clear. Remember the KISS principle — Keep it simple, silly. Keep your language simple, easy to comprehend. Use headings, bullets and images. Avoid writing dragging paragraphs with one or two central ideas.

Use the ‘right’ images and videos: Never under play or over play with this powerful tool. It helps you tell a story and a picture is worth thousand words. But when the content is lousy and boring and refuses to engage the audience, it creates negativity. It can make or break your post, therefore use with clarity and be clear about how it helps you achieve your objective.

Call to action: Do you want only likes or upvotes or do you want to hear from your audience, or do you want them to share the content? Prompt your audience with what action you would want them to take. If you have not, then probably they would not.

Cross promote your profile or other content: If you are using multiple platforms or writing on different topics that interests you, ensure that you are cross promoting yourself. Ensure that you link to other articles, posts and write ups that interest you or encourage people to click on other things that you would have written.

In this chaos of engaging in multiple social media platforms and delivering engaging content to your audience you need to be effective and efficient with what you do. If you are the one, who engages mostly into reading and not generating content, you should spend time choosing on what you intend to read or not to read/comment. Follow the traffic light approach and spend a part of your day engaging with social media content.

If you are the one doing both, you may find yourself hard pressed against time. Your effectiveness will be guaranteed when you make the best use of the platforms. Here are things that would help you become effective:

First, give it some quite time of your day. It should not be the first thing in the morning, while driving or on the dining table but some time to respond to the social media activities. Ensure that you are not at the habit of responding immediately nor delaying your responses. You must have something original to offer or a pressing need. If you are talking something which people already know, you will not be able to garner their interest.

Second, cut down on peer pressure to ‘be in’. ‘Are you on Instagram?’ and you immediately start off with an account. You are a member of many such platforms, which you rarely visit or maintain. Can you find out a way to rationalise your social platform requirements? Can it be limited to only three? Ask these questions: First, are my contacts available in the platform I am using? Second, does the connections really justify a new platform? Third, how much of my leftover time will it take to manage this new platform.

Third, if you are managing your business and needs to connect to your customer or stakeholders, you cannot be doing it, alone. Take professional help. Agencies that will help you get your get your word ahead. In case you cannot, fix up a person from your organisation who would be doing that.

Fourth, remember that managing social media for businesses are different from that of individuals. The approach, methodology, purpose, usage, time required would be different. Responding to the messages, creating engaging content and writing is different. Use the most suitable platform. Don’t force it to work. Consider your limitations.

Fifth, acknowledge that social media is a two-way communication method. Just as you write, it is important to listen. When you listen, you tend to understand the likes and dislikes, of your audience, sharpening yourself. This needs a balance with your interests and skills sets. People will read you or follow you only when you are consistent. If you are irregular or spending too little time, posting or writing, your audience will not be incentivised to come back to read. A teaser on ‘what follows next’ can also motivate people to come back.

Use social media effectively to build relationships with people in your areas of interest. Share your expertise, offer help and engage with them. Treat them with the same degree of respect you would give, when you meet them in person. There is no denying that social media is effective in connecting with people and an excellent way to collaborate. But be aware that it is making us indolent and disrupting our need for a great conversation.

The author is Principal — Education, Training and Assessment at Infosys Ltd; Author of The Gift of the Gab: The Subtle Art of Communicating, published by SAGE Publications India

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