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Traits to Avoid in Your Social Media Persona

By T.C. Cameron

Every day, dozens of social media gurus put forward their spin on how you should do this, post that, announce this and link to that. The noise is loud enough to drown out any tangible information you could take away, right?

Just 14 months ago, I was a Twitter rookie. I’m now considered a veteran after almost 5,000 tweets through two accounts, much like Baltimore Orioles sensation Manny Machado is a fixture at third base after just 123 games and 151 hits in the major leagues.

And yes, that’s probably the only similarity I can legitimately conjure between myself and the O’s sensational infielder. Yet the reality is it really happens that fast.

To that end, I’m offering some advice you can use at your desk or office, to share within your newsroom or perhaps prod some of the holdouts into the game. There are dozens of mediums you can use, with Facebook, Instragram, Pinterest and Twitter being overwhelmingly popular.

I’m not here to tell anyone what medium they should have a presence on. I’m not here to tell anyone what he or she should post. Instead, I want to share some of the personality traits I think any social media journalist should avoid. It’s all based on the articles I’ve read, posts and feeds I’ve subscribed to and some basic common sense to help let your true self shine through these electronic mediums.

“I had a bad day (again and again)…”

First, and perhaps most obvious, the newspaper industry has enough bad news. The last thing you want to bombard a follower with is how tough the job is, how much you despise reader comments, or how tough deadlines are.

Journalists all know how frustrating it can be. Instead, share with your readers how high the successes can be. Enlighten them with how much you enjoy crafting a good story, or how driven you are to deliver something they enjoy reading.

The Backstabber

Readers and followers don’t want to feel as if their comments are going to be the subject of a backstabbing. It’s hard to gracious in the face of criticism, but journalism isn’t for everyone and you need to be above this kind of behavior.

Be a good listener. Take the criticism with a grain of salt. Be thankful someone took the time to complain. Respond, but be humble and welcoming. It beats being ignored and better builds your paper’s brand.

The Follower

There are plenty of followers in the world. We see them follow the masses to the longest lines in the stadium, the toll booth or the subway station door. You’ve heard of NBC’s Brian Williams, right? The Nightly News anchorman has over 173,000 followers, and he’s never tweeted once.

Take the road less traveled. Follow people who are important to your beat, your community and your interests. If you cover city government, overpopulating your feed with celebrities like Lindsay Lohan and Kim Kardashian isn’t likely to make your Twitter feed important with readers. If you cover prep sports, following a few famous athletes is fine, but your feed should be populated with local coaches, athletes and other prep reporters who contribute significantly to interest in your area’s prep sports scene.

Mr. or Ms. Popularity

This is the difference between the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. It also says you wish you had been your high school’s homecoming king, or wish you still were.

You don’t have to be well liked or followed by everyone to be important. Is it the end of the world if followers don’t “favorite” or re-tweet your posts? Much like blogs, it’s about producing something worth reading. If your content is strong, you’ll connect with people who will notice over time.

The Public Address Announcer of Every. Single. Thing.

You don’t have to like or re-tweet everything on social media. In fact, social media is a lot like life’s battles: you have to carefully pick and choose your fight.

We don’t need to know when you’re at the grocery store, the boutique, the men’s shop or a stop light. And we don’t need to know when you’re at a bar – that only invites someone with a camera phone to record you about to make a potential career-ending mistake.

However, it’s OK, to announce you’re at the home team’s game (most of your readers are fans of the home team), covering a local event or trying a new store or restaurant recently featured in the paper or receiving a lot of play in your social media realm.

Ned Ryerson

Remember Bill Murray’s nemesis in “Groundhog’s Day”? No one wants to be trapped by a salesman on an elevator, right? They like it even less on social media. But instead of pushing product, you’re pushing a political agenda, trying to get a coach or councilman axed, or railing endlessly about one side of a civic issue.

It’s OK to offer a secondary opinion, or present some constructive criticism, but don’t be the person who becomes a ruthless critic or overbearing zealot.

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