Social media has evolved to a place we now use for personal and public matters. Professionally social is as acceptable as casually social, and even expected. Because they often merge, it may be useful to consider the advantages and drawbacks of formal and informal social content.

Social media’s large presence in our lives, and its sometimes overwhelming influence, prompts many public figures to use it as their key message platform. But that comes with risks, doing more harm than good in some cases.

US President Donald J. Trump is perhaps the most famous name to use social media extensively, though it seems limited to Twitter. He personally tweets information to the public. That may be an effective way to stay relevant with Americans and get his administration’s message to large audiences, but many believe it sometimes makes him too transparent.  They see it as damaging to his ‘presidential’ and ‘diplomatic’ image because his tweets are mixed with ‘memes’ and other random posts on people’s timelines. We are all aware of the brouhaha after his accidental tweeting of ‘covfefe.’ Social media criticized the President’s competency with humorous mockery and negative speculation.

Of course, other public personas find social media immensely advantageous. Snap Chat and Instagram let many celebrities stay relevant, and they craft their brand images to the liking of their audiences. Kylie Jenner uses Snap Chat to directly market her make-up brand to her fans in a very familiar way. She often floods her story with events in her everyday life, making her public persona more relatable by making herself appear very personable. Here in Jamaica, our current prime minister stays safe by keeping his social media updated with video footage of his work and other important events in the country.

The undeniable influence of social media has also encouraged many businesses to use it as one of their links to the public. Several Jamaican businesses have shown how this can be a useful strategy. For example, many small business owners create effective social media pages to market their products or events. Many party promoters target Instagram users, largely young people who attend such social events. Instagram is also effective for tourism marketing as it is a great place to post scenic pictures of the island that can help one gain many followers.

People are now learning that what they post can affect aspects of their lives other than the social. Employers often look at the social media content of prospective staff. And sometimes that content affects people’s chances of getting a job. Remember that what is placed on the Internet does not always go away, even after being erased. More ominously, many businesses have gotten into trouble after employees post crude or inappropriate content on their public pages.
Some people use social media to voice more serious opinions about world issues. While it may be seen as a drawback to make what was once casual social content far more serious, and therefore less enjoyable, there are also advantages. In Jamaica, as elsewhere, people are using their pages to directly contact their politicians and local organizations by taking issue with them in posts. Many see this online civic engagement as a way for people to play a larger, more immediate role in politics and their community.

So merging formal and informal content on social media has advantages and disadvantages for public personas, businesses and personal users alike. Some disadvantages are less avoidable than others. One has to learn how to effectively appeal to the mainly informal audience of social media while at the same time remain professional. It is important to always be conscious of what one says and to consider the context of the situation, i.e. the message to be conveyed, the image to be upheld, the audience expectations, and, finally, the proper way to broadcast your message.