The Social Dread-work: a basic discussion on confident social media use

SLLG Network Meeting, 2007: “Is anyone using social network tools at work?”
A lack of confidence and worries about privacy were cited as reasons for not using social networks.

SLLG Network Meeting, 2015: “What advantages and risks of using Social Media?”
Although many had access to at least one platform of social media, there was a sense of reticence about posting information onto it. Most felt they had “nothing to say” or were happier to avoid potential social media pitfalls. The popular feeling was social media remains a distraction from work more than a workplace resource.

At first it may seem SLLG members are behind the times talking about social media like this, but these statements are unsurprising.

Given SLLG members are acutely aware of the importance of information (the dangers of it even) through their professional experience, an apprehension is well founded.

There are many reasons why we might not want to use social media either professionally or personally. However, being afraid of publishing on it or thinking it will take up too much time are ones which must be resisted. Social media should not be filled with trepidation for law information professionals, should they want to use it fully.

Social media is torrential in its output. It is mostly things of no worth. It requires constant monitoring.

Well, kind of. There’s no duty to read everything. Read what you want.

It is perfectly possible to manage the volume of social media information:

  • Read, subscribe and follow the few accounts only of interest
  • Stop reading, subscribing and following accounts no longer of interest
  • Check what the accounts you read, like to read
  • Use list options and filter functions available on the platform to manage accounts
  • Set a brief time to regularly read a little of what is being published

Social media is too un-professional. It is for short attention spans. It is not in depth.

Well, kind of. There is a professional side to social media which belies its name.

Social media is increasingly an acceptable interface used for good information dissemination. People are getting better at providing worthwhile information over social media, often linking to more materials.

Social media is access to professional organisations, fellow sector colleagues and friends – all of whom are publishing content which can be freely followed. It is possible to create a personal Social Community of worthwhile contacts and interest to inform and even inspire.

You don’t have to publish or reply to anything. That’s the most important thing. But you mustn’t be held back by “social” anxiety should you ever want to.

Being aware of acceptable boundaries of social media means successfully publishing to it becomes easier. Indeed, there are lots of hints and tips to be found on how to best publish on social media with confidence.

Information professionals are already well versed. We have some different deterrents.

We have understandable reservations, such as:

  • I am boring and have nothing to say
  • I could get into trouble if I say the wrong thing
  • I don’t want to lose ownership of my words

And there are warning stories well documented about social media too:

In his article, How one stupid tweet blew-up Justine Saccos life , Jon Ronson reports on examples where things published on social media “hoping to amuse people” went very wrong for the account holders.

Similarly too, a warning tale is presented in: My co-worker writes a mean blog about me , where the writer came across a work colleague’s blog which included numerous posts belittling them in the workplace.

And probably most famously, the Twitter Joke Trial.

Thankfully, these incidents are rare, and easily avoidable if a sensible approach is taken.

Choose the platforms best suited for your information.
Get to know the platforms available. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs (to name the most used) each have strengths and weaknesses depending on who you want to reach and in what form. Often the platforms can interconnect and publishing on one can trigger a notification on another, should you wish to be on multiple platforms and widen your audience.

Take time to understand and adjust privacy settings to suit your needs.
Privacy settings are flexible and it’s important to learn their setup. That way the content you publish is far more strictly controlled by you as to its audience. Remember, good as they are, settings are not guaranteed to protect your words. You cannot predict the reach of what you publish. If you don’t want a curated series of screen captures of your publications read back to you in seven years, then don’t publish it online – write in a paper notebook which at any time you can burn.

Think about what message you are going to post.
If you have nothing to say, then that’s OK. Having a reason to publish something for your audience is not just good practice for social media, but has been for all publishing. The rules are essentially the same, if just at their loosest and transient on social media.

Some publish on their hobby or interest. Others use it to promote their profession or service. Some upload photos of their pet. Others upload photos of their meals. Some people publish a narrative on any subject that comes to mind. Others publish without thinking. As long as it is nothing malicious or incendiary, it goes on without a hitch.

Delia Venables lists her “gripes” of social media publishing as including:

  • Too often
  • Not enough interest
  • Not enough reciprocation
  • Poorly composed

Delia has a point, but might be a little heavy handed here. We are talking about encouraging publishing. Restricting poor content is not maybe as helpful as guiding what the motives should be to posting better content. It’s more positive, perhaps, to follow some simple “do’s” rather than lecturing “don’ts”.

Although, let’s start with a Don’t:
Don’t become concerned with frequency. Publish whenever suits you. You’re in control.

If publishing from an employer’s social media:

  • Follow company policy
  • Publish only authorised information
  • Respond to communication in a polite manner

If publishing from a professional platform:

  • Ensure the information is largely relevant to your intended audience
  • Be willing to follow and discuss topics with sector professionals

If publishing from a personal account:

  • Consider if you’d be prepared to read it out in public or office space
  • Think about the information you are presenting more than the structure (Is the structure a joke? Is the information of the joke offensive to a bystander?)
  • Give credit when the information source is not your own
  • Be comfortable with the extent it identifies you
  • Be happy at how it represents you

Consider your social media interactions with other published postings:

  • Based on a contextual understanding of facts?
  • An opinion you can defend?
  • Supportive or constructive?

These are not intended to be prescriptive. Though they should be enough to begin publishing with confidence.

The vast majority of tweets, blog posts and status updates posted, flow as single ripples in the raging media river. Thankfully there are some people out there who will enjoy and be interested to follow the unique ripple you choose to make. Avoid sailing over employer policies into choppy waters, getting dragged under by trolling undercurrents or being dashed on the hateful rapids, and social media is a rewarding experience to dip into. Especially this is the case for those in our sector, who are more self-aware than most about navigating into good information streams.

Using social media competently is becoming easier the more we appreciate both its virtues and failings. Social media is designed to share thoughts – random and informative alike – with cheap simplicity. The value comes from how it is used.

Reading social media can be of worth: giving direction, support and entertainment and provide news and information otherwise unknown. Writing on social media can provide others with the same interest and insights. That is its strength.

Ultimately if you want to be active on social media you should do so in the way you choose: have what account you want, follow who you want, read when you want, publish if you want. Happily, from experience on the SLLG social media platforms, library groups and information professionals are proving the adage:

You can’t do social media wrong, but you can do it right.

If you have any thoughts about this blog post, please comment below. We’d love to find out more tips and ways to get the most from social media for SLLG members.

You can follow SLLG on Twitter, LinkedIn and on this Blog. SLLG members are also encouraged to use the social website features provided in the members’ section.


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