Careful What You Do on Social Media

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by Sarah Warlick, content director

An orange basketball and a play diagram good for March madness, championship or basketball season on wooden backgroundReady for some serious Twitter drama? LeBron James quit following his own team! What is he thinking? How could anyone do anything so awful? What does it mean for the playoffs? Does his action reflect deep divisions within the Cavs community that point to a disastrous end of the season? What about future contract negotiations?

Yes, I’m mocking the uproar stemming from James’ decision to stop following the Cavs’ official account on Twitter. These questions and others are taking over the Internet news sites, with breathless interpretation of every tiny implication – real or imagined – that can be gleaned from his simple act. If you haven’t run into it yet, you will. It’s a BIG DEAL.

As it happens, James has a history of shutting down his social media activity as he begins serious training for the playoffs. The intent is to show, and help him internalize, a shift in focus to concentrate on the arduous task at hand and eschew distractions. I think we can all agree that Twitter qualifies as a major distraction.

But instead of taking it in stride as quirky behavior by an individual, or even looking into the matter for more understanding before engaging in a full-blown public freakout, millions of people – including the news media – leapt straight into speculation and loud mourning about the future of basketball, and indeed humanity.

Twitter is a valuable communications tool and a fantastic way to make contacts and share your input. It, like the other major social media platforms, is also a hotbed of overreactivity and unfounded conclusion-jumping. The whole phenomenon is reminiscent of a small high school: “Did you hear what Casey said to Jaime? It must mean that Jordan is out of the picture! OMG Jordan is totally dead!”

Now your firm is not LeBron James despite all the outstanding talent and inimitable personal style. Just the same, your firm is almost as vulnerable to intense scrutiny and heated discussion about the choices you make on social media. Your followers and others who hear talk about the firm will interpret casual comments and perceived slights way beyond any logical limit. Such is the nature of social media.

You have to move fast on Twitter, responding to current situations and weighing in almost instantly or you’ll miss the wave in the undulating surf of public discourse. At the same time, you’ve got to take absolutely every precaution possible to avoid creating turmoil and a public relations disaster with an offhand remark that came out ambiguously or wasn’t very graceful. We all do it, but on social media it’s much harder to effectively say, “Whoa, let me rephrase and clear that up,” than it is in a face-to-face conversation in the office.

Let this cautionary tale serve as a reminder that trivial issues are often magnified beyond all reason in the world of social media. Unguarded comments create maelstroms of drama. Be careful with your words because when you have millions of people in a public forum speaking freely, rumors and responses can get out of hand quickly. That’s the “social” aspect, I reckon.

 

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