Last week I had the opportunity to teach the social media component of the strategic communications course for a group of U.S. Navy senior leaders, both military and civilian, at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. A difficult place to be, I know. I covered the basics of how a senior leader in the military needed to be aware of social media, the benefits and dangers of social media, how different channels and platforms are more effective for different applications, how the people under them might be using it, and how they could use it to both further the purpose of their command and their career. However, most of the questions from the audience centered around tips, tricks, and best practices for using the different platforms, and being concious of their position and security issues. Beyond the basics of how you set your privacy and security settings, below are some of the most important tips I gave them for Facebook, the most commonly used platform, among the audience.
Who You Friend
Start slowly and only add people you know well. These days, everyone wants to be your friend. It is almost a competition to see who is more popular or has more friends. My perspective is that Facebook should be reserved for only people who are truly your friends. Don’t try to add 100+ friends on your first day. You should start slowly, adding only people you know well.
Have a “policy” on who you friend. You should have a policy or a set of criteria for deciding who it is you friend and who you don’t friend. For example, I suggested a rule of thumb that if you haven’t had them over for dinner, then you probably shouldn’t friend them. In some cases, I would recommend that a person not reach out and friend anyone because it might construed as favoritism because you friend some and not others. This is true for anyone, but especially military officers, managers, and executives in other organizations. That being said, don’t be afraid to unfriend people or ignore requests.
What you put in your profile
Have only you in your photo. All of the pictures of your family, your dog, your car or even that glamour shot are great, but since your photo is the most likely and widely seen aspect of your profile, put only you in your photo, focusing on the face. If you are in the military or law enforcement, I would not put up a picture that shows you in uniform.
Don’t share your birthday. Yes, it is great when all of those people post happy birthday on your wall. Really strokes your ego. But if they are really your friends, wouldn’t they already know it is your birthday without getting prompted by Facebook? You birthday is one of the top five critical identifying pieces of information about you. My suggestion is not to share it in Facebook. If you choose to, only share the month and the day.
What to share
Share what you would normally share. One of the most common questions was what should I share on Facebook? My recommendation was take what you would normally share with friends by email or phone and share on Facebook. For example share links, photos, stories, observations. That being said, feel free to use the groups feature and set up groups that you can share specific things with and not others. For example for one officer who was a Naval Academy graduate, I suggested that he use the group feature to share items more career related with his classmates and then a second group for family to share other non-career items with.
Read what others share and comment. You should engage and interact on Facebook – that is part of the purpose for you being on there. So go ahead and read and comment on your friends’ updates. Write on their wall.
Other activities on Facebook.
Like your favorite brands and companies. You can get a lot of information about companies and brands via their Facebook feed. For example, you can learn about new products coming out and special offers. I recently found out about an offer via Facebook from a local retailer that saved me $40.
Set a limit of how much time you spend on Facebook. Facebook can be addictive – it can totally suck you in. I have heard of people spending hours and hours on Facebook to the total detriment of the rest of their life. Maybe it is 10 minutes a day or only getting on during a specific time of day, but set some sort of limit on your Facebook time.
Facebook is a great tool. But it is exactly that, a tool. And as such it needs to be used properly. These are just a few of the suggestions I offered to the class. What other suggestions for be safe on Facebook would you have offered?
Coming up – suggestions for using and staying safe on Twitter and LinkedIn.