Movie stars, celeb chefs, celebrated writers, or famed anyone, they’ve all stepped out of the telly, books, newspaper columns or movies, and into own virtual space. Social media has blurred the lines between the famed and the lesser mortals, like us.
Being such a powerful tool, social media, if not managed honestly, does have a flipside. It’s a place that could land anyone in trouble, if they didn’t watch their back.
Considering there’s a massive population who are twitter/FB addicts, it’s only befitting that we take a quick session on online etiquettes with Dubai’s social media guru Akanksha Goel, who sums it up with, “There’s a saying that ‘If you wouldn’t say it your mother, don’t say it online”.
A partner at Socialize, a social media agency and training house, Akanksha is surprised at the hoopla surrounding social media decorum, stating, “It’s only basic communication etiquette. If you are attending a party, it’s highly unlikely that you’d say something mean to the host. And even if you did, you’d convey it to the host directly, without making a hue and cry about it.”
She, however, concurs that people, sometimes, do tend to use “attention tactics” online. “This is why, as a brand, one of our crisis management protocols enables us to take out negative posts off the walls, and continue the conversation offline. This way we address the issue, offline, without making it a big deal online.”
But what twitter/FB users must realise is that whatever they voice in the virtual world is recorded. “And employers are looking up candidates on social media before hiring them, so youngsters need to know that their digital presence does make a difference to their future and they need to have a clean virtual image.”
The rules of communication, Akanksha maintains, are the same for telephone and e-mail. “You wouldn’t SMS, e-mail or call someone and talk badly about the government. At least, in some parts you wouldn’t. So why do it on twitter? That’s just common sense.”
And this applies to those in their mid-level careers, who have access to a whole lot of classified info, as well. “It (FB/twitter) is still a public forum, so you don’t want to leak anything out, or put anything out as it could be held against you. It’s just like e-mail, you wouldn’t send confidential material via e-mail, so why do it on twitter?
“The kind of employees, who would go against the company handbook on phone/e-mail would do the same on social media,” she reiterates.
Often, people commit the mistake of overlooking the privacy settings on their online accounts, leading to more slip-ups. “Privacy settings (on FB) are easy, it’s just a tiny button that shows you exactly who is viewing your posts, but just like your e-mail, even your posts can be shared/forwarded and telecast to people outside your friend circle. So, the onus lies on you. It’s much like something you tell someone in confidence at a party, and hope it stays a secret.”
Similarly, companies, must understand, that “the same rule that applies for their PR and web channel, does apply for social media. People do take a brand’s FB page very seriously, because it is an official mode of communication.”
There have been instances, Akanksha recalls, when comments had to be pulled out of the walls of certain tech companies, after it was flagged and circulated by customers as facts. “After we commented to someone’s question about how a new operating system was going to come into play, it was suddenly sent to all tech sites saying ‘Look this is true, it’s coming’.”
Censorship, Akanksha insists, is not specific to the UAE. “It’s not so much the UAE. It’s everywhere. You don’t want to offend anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments. There are cases exclusive to the UAE, like a strict censorship during Ramadan, but I don’t think the UAE has anything unusual.”