Watch what you post…everyone is watching you!

Social media is, and should be, social. No doubt about it. If you are a broadcaster and fail to listen and engage, you will have a lonely social media existence. That being said, when posting to your various social accounts you should always question what you are posting being mindful of who could be viewing it down the road.

I am constantly amazed at the things I see posted. The phrase “assume whatever you say will show up where everyone can read it” is commonly used in training new public relations professionals. The same premise is true for social media. Social platforms like Facebook and Twitter have member bases in the hundreds of millions. Couple that with the idea that the major search engines crawl these sites and return ‘social’ results and you have yourself a pretty vast audience for your social postings.

Essentially, when you are a social networker, consider yourself a public relations consultant and the client is you.

You hear more and more stories about athletes and politicians getting embarrassed by items they posted in the past. You also know that a growing number of employers are searching for their job candidates on social media to get a better idea of who the candidate really is.

Social media is no place to be reckless, people!

You need to create a plan for posting responsibly. Everyone has a different approach but here is my general posting plan…

Facebook: I keep my Facebook account completely private except for some basic info about me. I am generally picky about friend requests since I tend to post stuff that is more personal in nature (family pics, videos, etc). I am careful when commenting on someone else’s post, knowing that my privacy settings don’t extend to someone else’s wall. I also monitor my wall and see what I am being tagged in (pics, vids, notes, etc). If I don’t approve of the item that was tagged or am being gratuitously tagged, I immediately remove the tag. Tagged items show up in search engine results also.

For more info on making your Facebook account private, visit their Privacy Guide.

Twitter: My Twitter account is public, and I have a decent-sized following, so I am much more guarded with my tweets. Beyond posting informative articles, I engage and comment, but what I share is much less personal. I highly recommend that you do not connect your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Each social medium offers you a different audience and each should be treated separately.

Blogs: My blog is an extension of my Twitter activity so I treat them very similarly. When blogging, it is important to remember that search engines like Google crawl bogs as well.

Foursquare: I am very selective in where I check into and who I friend on Foursqure, but more for security reasons. See this post for a few tips on Foursquare privacy.

LinkedIn: Keep it professional! Treat it as an online resume and only post what you would want to be asked about in a job interview.

Youtube, Flickr and all other picture/video sharing services: Always be on guard and assume whatever you post will be found easily by the masses.

Bottomline- Be careful and smart when posting on social media. You never know when someone might be searching for you!