I need a word with you. Between us — between you and me, and between me and your brand.

The lack of privacy in social media is nothing new. Right? There are confusing privacy settings, changing rules and platforms, and the list goes on. Over the past year Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have taken private messages and group messaging to new levels, creating apps that emulate Snapchat and other popular messaging apps.

In light of this, disturbing social behaviors online warrant a short warning (and perhaps a reminder): Nothing you say or do on social media is private. You might think this behavior is a teenage thing or drama for the general public — never in your business network online. After all, you walk the straight-and-narrow; hardly step out of line; post positive, inspirational quotes; and rarely comment or rant or “vaguebook” unnecessarily.

But there is a larger danger in town. Entire conversations take place via private messaging, group messages or in Facebook groups. These “secret” or “private” messages have become the content of choice for people to share at will, screen-grabbing, screen-shooting, or cut-and-pasting the comments, arguments, conversations and opinions that you believe are private. This creates quite the dilemma for brokers, franchises and other organizations; how can they properly protect you on their behalf?

As one of my favorite sayings goes: “People, check yourself before you wreck yourself!” Here are some ways to do that:

Embrace digital respect

The pillar of all relationships, large and small, is respect. We learn this at a very early age. But social media seems to remove the consequences of bad behavior for some. I’ve spoken at length about your digital “footprint” — the small breadcrumbs we leave behind that allow others to find you and connect the dots. The reality is this: People connect dots to you that you do not see. The ones you left by accident, when you were in a mood or having a bad day.

Don’t let the vagueness of “privacy settings” create false walls of safety around you. Your typed words are documents of conversation, and the rules are forever changing. Embrace your own privacy and self-respect, even in circles of “close relationships” and in private messages on social media. Those can change as fast as privacy settings.

The power of social integrity

We throw this word around a lot. Integrity is not something that you have; it is something that you do. We don’t come into the world knowing how to socialize with integrity. Living with integrity requires rationality: the noncontradictory integration of growth, mistakes and experience. It is realized through living congruently with your understanding and principles.

Because of this, your integrity is always a work in progress. It’s a promise to yourself to do the right thing. Social media removes the lack of transparency of your integrity. It can go viral. No one likes “viral referrals.”

Create your personal social media policy — and live by it

A 2014 Realtor technology survey report by the National Association of Realtors showed that 91 percent of Realtors use social media. Strong bonds are formed in our digital worlds with clients, friends and colleagues. Those bonds join forces with your business and your personal brand. Many understand and balance their personal and business profiles with separate voices, but many do not.

If your broker or office has a social media policy, first seek to understand it. If your broker does not have one, seek to create one. Once you have an understanding of that, create your personal policy.

What impact does your social behavior have on your brand, your business and your relationships, past, present and future? Write it down, learn it, live it and breathe it. Have your own opinions, but don’t rob others of theirs when you don’t agree. That’s when respect and trust is lost.

“Be who you are and say what you feel — but make sure you do it with integrity, ethics, and in a way that aligns to your brand promise and desired impressions you want to leave with your loyal audiences!” — Pam Moore

Humans are complicated. Social media is not. The power of your social integrity builds it all: trust, loyalty, your tribe, your brand and your community. Build it well.

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