Social Media: Think Before You Tweet

Last week while traveling to San Francisco for the RSA Conference 2010, I finally took the time to figure out how to use TwitPic from my mobile phone. It was like a revelation! For those of you who follow me, you may have seen as I posted various photos from the trip out there, my dinner the first night, etc. I had a shiny new toy!

Then on Monday night during the opening reception, the show was relatively slow. You see, they open the show with a two-hour open Expo, and the organizers treat attendees to beer, wine, and food. Because of the treats and eats, very few of the attendees are actually interested in engaging in business-related discussion of any sort. Of course, as an exhibitor (@AnueSystems, actually), we are required to man the booth in case we are approached by anyone with questions or interest in our products.

Since we were mostly standing around looking for some meaningful conversations to crop up, I decided to partake in one of my favorite pastimes when out in public: people-watching. RSA presents a very interesting range of people from all around the world. There were business types in suits, hard-core security techs in t-shirts and jeans, booth talent in various getups, marketing and sales folks in company branded attire, and just about anything else you can imagine.

About an hour into the show, a woman approached the booth across from us in a very peculiar outfit. In fact, it looked as though she were dressed by a color blind, stylistically-challenged imp! We had a nice chuckle among our group, and of course we snapped a couple of photos. Then it dawned on me…I had to share this one on Twitter. It would surely elicit some nice laughs by my online friends, so I opened up email and teed it up to send with the following message included: “RSA 2010: Not a fashion conference”. After a few minutes, I had second thoughts about whether this was a smart thing to do, but it appeared the email had already sent, so I was all in.

The next day while having lunch with Jennifer Leggio (@mediaphyter), Social Business blogger for ZDnet, I shared this story to see what she thought. Her reply? “What if that is one of your customers?” Of course, I was just about certain it was not, but as I pondered her feedback further, I grew more and more concerned about doing something so stupid without thinking first. Now, I’m a guy who is no stranger to the taste of my foot, but at this point in my life, I’m most certainly too old to blame such a gaff on the folly of youth.

That night, I logged into Twitter to see what maelstrom of feedback I may have gotten to the picture, and it unexplainably wasn’t showing up in my stream. I was befuddled! Can it be…did the email never in fact deliver? So I went to TwitPic and logged in, and alas! I did manage to successfully cancel the transmission, which was the result of either luck or badly-needed common sense [maybe a little bit of both].

Whew, what a close call. For those of you who know me, you’re aware that I’m always up for a good laugh, but seldomly in such a disrespectful way to fellow professionals (and yes, even those with no fashion sense deserve respect on an intellectual and business level). I try very hard to foster productive and mutually beneficial relationships. In fact, networking is one of the most important things I do outside of work and spending time with my family.

But in one fell swoop, I nearly let the my fervor for a newfound toy throw me off my course. Never forget, social networking is still about people first. Anything you say or post online is available for public consumption, and with your “it’s me” stamp of approval permanently attached. Sites, tools, software, and cool apps are great, but they are just methods by which to interact with real people. Think about how it might affect the person on the other end, and in this case, the “butt” of the joke. It’s just not worth doing something potentially offensive for a cheap laugh. Oh yeah, and if you’re in the job market, be sure your Facebook account won’t scare off your interviewer. If you don’t think they are looking, think again.

Special thanks to @Mediaphyter for her voice of reason. If you haven’t seen her work, I highly recommend you take a moment to do so.

On that note, namaste my friends.