I have been working online in a public facing role for longer than most people have had an Internet connection. When I was younger, I could always use my age as a get out of jail free card when I made a fool of myself or crossed a major line in a way that was unforgivable. In fact I lost my first gig as columnist for a prominent resource website for exhibiting unabashed prejudice against another website that I was jealous of. Some of my early antics made Paul Christoforo look like Edward Bernays, and the only reason I can still look at myself in the mirror is because the category of my business was fantasy wrestling, and 95 percent of participants were still a couple years from being legally able to drive.
Even though I’ve shifted my online consulting business to include public relations to accommodate social media and customer service, I still find myself guilty of ignoring what I preach from time to time. These faux pas may seem innocuous, but they can be the difference in being taken seriously and deemed a nitwit.
Confusing the author and site owner
I read tons of social media articles every day. Some come from bloggers who I’m associated with on Triberr, and a lot are recommended by friends on various social media channels. Two separate times in the past month I’ve come across blogs that I thought were amazing, and after running up on them two or three times I left a comment saying so. Both times I complimented the owner’s writing ability…. Both times the comments ended up on guest posts that were written by others.
Not only is this offensive to the blog owner who thinks that you are going through the paces or simply don’t pay attention to details, it’s extremely rude to the person who actually penned the content. I wouldn’t go to Chris Brogan’s page and gush about how good of a writer Jeff Bullas is, but I did just that on a guest post on Jeff’s blog. I realized my faux pas shortly after, and my comments were actually based on the previous two articles that Jeff did actually write as much as it was on the one that I posted on. I thought that it may be more offensive to the actual writer if I went back and explained myself, so now I just try and pay more attention to the byline.
Automated Content Distribution
I have lots of ideas and work interests. Some of my online income comes from articles I’ve written several months ago that are often penalized by Google for being on competitor’s websites (so I need alternate methods of promotion). I also have a day job that doesn’t include Facebook and Twitter, so I rely on a couple of tools to share content from a few of my blogs at intervals throughout the day. A lot of people automate or schedule posts, but it’s something I have always considered a gray area.
Imagine that I had written an article joking about the severity of the east coast earthquake that occurred in the fall of 2011. It is a perfectly pertinent article in November 2011, but it loses all of its relevance as we move toward 2013. Since it comes from a WordPress plugin called “Tweet Old Posts”, it won’t even be included in the tweets until it’s out of date. It becomes a catastrophe when on the day a massive Earthquake kills a hundred thousand people and my first tweet of that day is titled “Why Earthquake Survivors Need to Get Over Themselves”. Whoa, who does this guy think he is? Wait, he sounds like he’s semi famous, we better alert Reddit! Now I’m the subject of social media blogs in the “what not to do posts” as opposed to the writer. Maybe it’s time to question the value of the “Tweet Old Posts” plugin.
Dirty Jokes and Offensive Humor
If you’re a friend on my personal Facebook, you know that I share a lot of memes and humor content, mostly in the form of images. I’ve shared Internet humor since Joe Cartoon invented the “Frog in a Blender”, and it’s impossible to offend the people I went to high school and college with. My friends list has grown significantly over the last year, and it covers people from a broad range of backgrounds and tolerance thresholds.
A month ago I came across a funny sign posted in an apartment hallway that was directed at someone who found graffiti, particularly the phallic type, very humorous. It read something like “Dear person who draws penises everywhere in the apartment building. No one besides you finds this amusing, and we’d appreciate if you would stop. It ruins my day when I go to press and elevator button and realize I touched the tip of a depiction of an oversized penis. Thank You, your neighbor”. Now I find this situation disgusting, and would personally have hunted down the neighbor who was offending everyone, and resolved this matter once and for all. The funny part was the penis that wound up drawn on the note. It’s grade school humor, but there is still something clever about answering someone’s complaint about phallic drawings with a phallic drawing.
A couple of weeks later, my grandma called me into her kitchen. I didn’t know what she wanted, but she was serious and didn’t want my great grandma to hear it, so I feared the worse. When I made it into the kitchen, she looked me in the eye, and asked me why there was a penis on my Facebook page. At first I denied it, and was dumbfounded at the accusation. I figured I may have been hacked or worse yet somehow had taken an R rated picture on accident while dressing and it had accidentally found its way into one of my albums. After I realized it was the teenager’s drawing (that wasn’t anatomically correct at all) and not a real photo, I almost started laughing. It really became funny to me when she told me how she had asked a friend at work to look at my Facebook profile to see if they could find some articles I had written, and came across a picture of a penis. I removed it as soon as I got home, and since they never read the note and realized that the drawing was a joke, I never, ever, post anything adorned with phallic sketch on it anymore.
Everyone messes up from time to time, but as we become more prominent, we find that we have much more to lose, and it takes less and less to cross the same lines. Just consider the President, and how much George W. Bush was scrutinized for just giving vacant looks and mispronouncing words. What kind of faux pas have you committed lately? Are there any habits that you have trouble breaking, or things that you consider part of your personality even though it is taboo to many people?