Social media is now an essential part of daily social and commercial communication, and most businesses participate in at least one social media network. 92% of marketers report that social media is important for their business, up from 86% in 2013, the Social Media Examiner previously revealed in its sixth annual Social Media Marketing Industry report.

Nevertheless, many people still don’t know how to use social media properly, whether it’s for personal use or for marketing purposes.

One of the biggest mistakes a business can make on social media is not properly separating personal and professional communication. The first impression potential clients have of you now comes from search engines such as Google and from social media, because they use social media to research businesses they’re interested in having a commercial relationship with. Many professionals usually are in a natural position of authority, which can be compromised if clients find unfortunate pictures, comments or groups on the dentist’s personal social media profiles.

No matter how strict your privacy settings are, you should always assume that your posts will be seen, and once it’s out there, it’s out there forever. You don’t want old posts or pictures coming back to haunt you, even on a personal Facebook page.

There has been several incidents in 2014 alone where business people’s horrific social media judgement has had serious consequences. One high profile example was PayPal’s director of global strategy, Rakesh Agrawal, who verbally abused a colleague, PayPal’s vice president of global communications, Christina Smedley, on Twitter. Agrawal, who was attending a jazz festival in New Orleans, posted tweets saying “Duck you Smedley you useless middle. manager.” and “Christina Smedley is a useless. Piece of sh**”. Of course, the tweets were deleted shortly afterwards, but screenshots still ended up on CBC News. Agrawal later claimed that he had been using a new phone and that the tweets were actually meant for a colleague. Nevertheless, Rakesh Agrawal is no longer working for PayPal.

The American Dental Association (ADA) has created a posting protocol to provide direction to individuals who are authorized to post on the ADA’s social media platforms on behalf of the ADA. Everyone could benefit from their advice on how to communicate on social media. Some of ADA’s guidelines include: Be professional, be respectful, maintain confidentiality and privacy, respect third party content, know that the internet is permanent and keep your personal views separate.

You can see the rest of the guidelines here.

When keeping these guidelines in mind, and using your common sense, you should be fine when managing yourself or your business on social media.

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