SOCIAL ALERT: The Dangerous Characteristics of Those Who Make Social Media Fly

421030159_97e9cc2bb6_oIt occurred to me for a while that there are four characteristics of people who run good social media sites and two of them aren’t all that healthy.

For the best part of six years I helped look after social media strategy and tactics for a council and evolved it from one fledgling Twitter to more than 60 devolved accounts.

Some were good and some less so and often the good ones would have the same things in common. What I’ve seen since working on comms2point0 full-time reinforces this.

At times, seeing social media evolve has been like the early test pilots. There they go clambering into their biplanes without a parachute. We count them out and we count them back again. There have been surprisngly few casualties.


It’s a quality that shines through. It’s a lightbulb above the head. In training, nothing beats seeing that eureka moment from someone who didn’t really quite see the point. The good people have a lightbulb glowing over their heads. It’s the enthusiasm of someone who gets it.

Going the extra mile

Once you get it, the best people tend to go the extra mile. The Facebook update at 10pm. The reply to a tweet on a Bank Holiday.

A pioneering spirit 

Like a pilot heading out across uncharted water a pioneering spirit is needed from those who make the social web fly. How does this work? Where will this lead me? What did I learn? They are all good qualities.

Inability to switch off

Any yet, the downside is that people don’t always know when to switch off. I’ve spoken to people who’ve looked burnt out because they’ve poured their heart and soul into what they are doing. They are passionate about it. But it doesn’t always follow that the organisation is dragged along with them. There are no organisations that I know of that properly resource what used to be called ‘out-of-hours’ enquiries. The result is the risk of burn-out and poor service to the enthusiastic individual.

A thin skin for criticism

But the downside of pouring heart and soul into something is that criticism can feel that bit more personal. It may not even be criticism of the channel. It could be a half brick aimed at the organisation. But it very often doesn’t feel that way.

“The reason why I don’t go online in the evening like I used to,” one public sector officer told me in confidence “is that between 9am and 5pm I get told on Twitter I’m s**t and my council is s**t. I don’t want to switch on in my own time to be told that too.”

I can relate to that. Once we were tweeted at 11pm if the roads were gritted. Ten minutes later without a reply the same individual tweeted that he’d f**king asked me if the f**king roads had been gritted. Unreasonable behaviour, sure. But it troubled me far more than a snotty letter or email.

On the other end of the scale is trolling. The sustained often anonymous abuse of an individual or an account. Journalists in particular face this. As a former hack who left the industry long before the social web evolved I often wonder what plan I would have taken.

While social media is great for conversation and must only be two way there comes a time when there is a line in the sand. This is where a social media acceptable use policy starts to come in. A clear boundary of what is fine and not alright. Many places don’t have this.

Of course, the glib answer is to insist that people shrug off the criticism and not take it to heart and yet that’s what they must do.

As social media matures and becomes a properly two way channel a dilemma is opening up. If you run a profile you need good skills to make it fly. But those skills, if you are not careful, could risk seeing you and your fingers burnt.

You or your manager needs to be aware of the dangerous characteristics.

How do you deal with yours?

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