The limitations and disadvantages of using social media are especially obvious when poor planning or imprudent word choice leads to legal suits, firings, divorces, laughs on late-night comedy, politicians losing the public trust, and more, all because someone did not think before they posted. The saying that a carpenter should “Measure twice, cut once” should be applied to posting, in “Think twice—thrice, or more—then post.” A genie can’t be put back into the bottle after it is let out, so any comment or posting that you make online, whether done in an “on or off” professional attitude, can’t be undone.
Avoiding this kind of trouble has layers beneath its surface: even when posting in a professional capacity—for example, posting comments as an editor on an editor’s forum—you can easily be misunderstood or forget to put yourself into the shoes of the audience or say something that has rhetorical implications that you did not realize at first. A quickly turned-out comment or posting might have negative consequences to you professionally if you don’t take the time to read (and reread) what you have written before you post.
Just like in all writing, you must analyze your posting according to: audience, tone, point of view, voice, vocabulary, grammar, and so on. Obviously, you should reflect your professional sound judgment by bias-free word usage, no typos, good graphics, etc. in all your social media interactions.
However, having said all that, posting on forums, commenting on blogs, tweeting, and using other interactive social media are great ways to make professional contacts, provided you understand the forum and its audience, and provided you contribute value to the discussion (i.e., where the audience values your contribution as much as you do). I personally have made some good professional editing contacts by judiciously posting on LinkedIn discussion forums about things within my sphere of expertise.
With that as a foundation, here is a major way that social media could support your ID goals: your social media comments can place your site and message within a context of the shared space of the whole professional community and its messages. In other words, use of social media gives you opportunities to project yourself both thoughtfully and with discretion and precision to impress an audience of users or at least increase your visibility. These users make up your target audience. Social media use helps you to keep up with your profession as it changes, as you follow those resources—whether individuals, publications, businesses—that let you in on cutting edge topics and new technologies, online spaces, discussions, problems, solutions, and change-leaders; social media use also lets you represent yourself or your business professionally.
You show your ability to contribute value to these discussions as you enter the shared space of your professional community, and then, you continue to update yourself as the space grows and changes. You link to what will benefit you and link others to that benefit; you update continuously to change along with the changes that are continuously happening around you.