Hold it right there! Ten things to consider before publishing on social media
Isn't it great that this leads us to make errors that make us look unprofessional? No! Here's a handy checklist of things to consider before you click Post, Send or Update.
1. The title Does the title of your blog post make sense? Does it complement the rest of the post, or did you come up with an attention- grabbing headline first then go on to write a post that had nothing to do with it? Are there spelling errors you haven't noticed - that the whole world will spot as soon as it goes live? Is it too long? Or so short it doesn't tell the reader what it's about?
2. That devilish autocorrect The autocorrect function on your iPhone is absolutely brilliant. Except when it's not.
Half the time it stops your big fat fingers from writing teh or nad; the rest of the time it's turning white into White, shut into shit and inserting unwanted apostrophes into its, ill and hell.
There are some cracking examples on Damn You Autocorrect, like the one on the left (I picked one of the cleaner ones).
So, particularly on a fast-paced platform like Twitter, just pause a second and check that autocorrect hasn't been too clever for its own good.
3. Does it make sense? Does that joke actually work? Can you read it out loud without tripping over the words? Are you making a reference your audience is unlikely to get?
4. Do the links work? Come on, it only takes a few seconds to whizz through your blog post and check all the links. It's respectful to your readers for starters, and you don't want to give a reason for people to leave sarcastic comments.
5. Permanency Once it's out there, it's out there! Google indexes tweets and will soon start indexing comments made publicly on Facebook. And you might find that the inflammatory post you made in a forum three years ago still shows up in the top five results when someone Googles you. Worth remembering if you're about to write another one.
6. Is it factually correct?
This particularly applies to Twitter; once you write a post and it is retweeted you've got no control over who sees it, where or when. Picture a beautiful white dove being set free and fluttering away into the air.
Or if you've posted something that is inaccurate yet deliciously topical it can be more like herding cats, as you try desperately to limit the damage. This happened in January 2011 when US Senator Giffords was shot at point-blank range, leading to a flurry of tweets assuming that she had been killed (see left).
7. Tidiness There are only so many hashtags and links you can fit in a tweet. Overload it with too much clutter and it will reduce the clarity, meaning you are reducing your chances of it being retweeted.
And on Facebook, once the link has been recognised and the content drawn in you can delete the URL. It's too messy, particularly for people reading on mobile who are viewing your update on a small screen. Although you don't have the 140-character restriction you should still aim for clarity in your messages.
8. Shareability How long is that tweet? If it fills the 140 characters your followers may have to sub it down before they can retweet it, and unless it's something really compelling, in most cases they won't bother. So don't use long words when short ones will do and use more punctuation to help break up long sentences.
A lot of the time people share content on the strength of the title alone, so make sure you've included the key words which tell the reader what the content is about.
9. Layout Always preview the blog post before posting to see how it looks on the page. Can you tweak the layout to make it more readable? Perhaps by adding more line breaks to reduce big chunks of text, moving the pictures around to help the content flow more intuitively or adding a two-line summary at the top of the page to introduce the theme of the post.
10. Are you 'tired and emotional'? The problem with booze is it makes you chatty. And social media does chatty very well, leading us to disclose thoughts and information which we would otherwise keep confidential. If you have a habit for oversharing after a beer - or when you genuinely tired and emotional - try and have the presence of mind to stop yourself. Or it might make uncomfortable reading the next morning!