Comments affect writers’ credibility and reputation. Here are seven things to consider before posting.
Social pages shouldn’t be work, you say. Depends. While social pages provide a relaxed writing atmosphere where you can communicate with friends and family, as a freelance writer, especially if you’re a journalist, the basic rules still apply. When posting or commenting on social pages, my rule of thumb is to assume that everything is public whether my privacy settings are in flux or not. I speak my mind, I express my opinions, but hopefully with a degree of professionalism.
Fact check posts that spark your response. Picture it: You see a political post on your Facebook timeline that makes your blood boil. Your knee-jerk reaction is to share it with a fiery comment straight from your heart. Well, okay, but first run through the considerations below.
Consider the source. Before you stake your reputation on any article posted on a social page, find out its origin. CNN? Reputable source. Cousin Clara’s Homespun Wisdom Blog? Perhaps reputable, but find a backup source. Source unknown? Google the topic and see what else appears online about it. Also, try Googling the headline of the post with the word hoax or scam in the search box to keep from getting suckered and having your reputation/credentials damaged online.
Consider researching facts before joining a crusade. Someone shared a video of a mother abusing a baby with the post: “Please share! This woman, and the person filming her should be in jail! Save this baby!” I Googled the video and found that the mother was a teenager who had an abusive history. Her aunt videoed the abuse to provide evidence when she contacted the authorities, and the situation had been resolved. So I modified the message accompanying the video in my post: “BABY IS FINE. Mother in prison. Videographer was reporter of crime. Baby being cared for by family members.”
Consider timing. For instance, expediency is essential when posting Amber Alerts. So immediately share, but as soon as you do, Google it, check the date of the alert and the status. Follow up your share with appropriate official updates. No speculation.
Consider intent. Obviously doctored photo? Outrageous accusation? Blatantly sensationalist? Almost certainly libelous? Before sharing, I always put myself in the story/photo/video, and ask myself: would I want it splashed all over the internet without anyone verifying some facts or background information?
Consider your credibility. Carving yourself a niche with your opinions is one thing. Becoming the ranting maniac that no one takes seriously is another thing, especially if you list yourself as a freelance writer, and use your social page for professional networking.
Consider legal ramifications. Posting erroneous, libelous, or untruthful comments may get you taken seriously as the writer that got slapped with a lawsuit. Rule of thumb: No proof? No publish.
Consider the ramifications of ‘liking’ pages and causes. Be careful that you know about the background, affiliations, and legitimacy of each group or cause you align yourself with on social pages.
Social pages are amazing marketing, networking, and socializing tools as long as you keep in mind that every comment you make instantly appears to your readers and colleagues and shapes your professional and personal reputation and credibility.