5 Rules For How To Behave In Social Media

I've been on a jag lately about the phenomenon of the "vocal few" in social media.  I wrote about a troubling shift in the brand-consumer power dynamic; and the vilification of "old" media during the breaking Michael Jackson news

Hopefully this is my last post on the topic ... for the time being.

PersonalFoul The latest broo-ha-ha has to do with ESPN.  Yesterday afternoon it was rumored - based on a misguided Tweet from an ESPN reporter - that ESPN had enacted draconian social media policies on their employees.  Very influential bloggers, including Chris Brogan and Mashable rushed to wag their finger at the network.  Tsk Tsk.  Problem though - neither Brogan, nor Mashable, nor anyone else had actually seen the policy at the time they were passing judgment. So they were basing their "reporting" on ... [crickets].

[Update: In the spirit of this post ... neither Chris nor Mashable indicated having seen the policy when they first blogged about it. Both referenced an NPR post as their source; that NPR post was based on a single Tweet from an ESPN reporter. Since then, everyone has updated their posts to link to the actual policy in question.  But the entire point of this post is about what happened before anyone had actual facts on which to base an evaluation.]

By the time ESPN released the policy, countless people had blindly re-tweeted and propagated the negative POV, based solely on the uninformed opinions of others.

Funny thing happened on the way to the forum ... turns out the policy was, for the most part, reasonable.  You can see the bullet points here.

Yet another tempest in the teapot.  The vocal minority strikes again.

Can't we all just get along?  I have five proposed rules for how we should all behave moving forward [wishful thinking, I know]:

  1. Get your facts straight before the bashing begins.  Or at least get a fact [any fact] on which you base your opinion.
  2. Put yourself in the brand's shoes.  Have you worked at a brand in the era of social media?  If not, take your fingers off the keyboard for a minute and just try to think what it's like to be a brand trying to navigate the new world of social media.
  3. Don't blindly pass along the uninformed opinions of others.  Do your own thinking.  If you agree, go for it.  But at least put some effort behind it.
  4. Consider the impact your words can have on an individual or organization.  I'm not saying "if you don't have anything nice to say ..." but do try and put a human face on the target of your criticism.
  5. Get over yourself.  We all make mistakes.

So - can you live by these rules?  I, for one, will make a conscious effort to do so.