I recently read a great book on business relationships called Riding Elevators Backwards by Larry Stevens, a partner at PriceWaterhouseCoopers. He dedicates a chapter to building relationships on social media, including Facebook and LinkedIn. I will quote just two words from the book: “be deliberate.”

Be deliberate in what you post to social media.

With every social media post you make, you are painting a picture of yourself to the world. You are your own PR rep. People who share about difficult customers on LinkedIn, or about their political irritations on Facebook, are essentially saying, “Not only do I have nothing better to do than complain, but I assume you have nothing better to do than read my complaints.”

Here’s a simple question to ask before you post: will this make things better?

Will my post be useful, interesting, or funny? Will it add to the knowledge of my friends? Will it lift someone up, or pat someone on the back?

You want to have fun with your posts, but you want to strive to make things better. Make your goal to “post positive.” Posting what you had for lunch is fine, just link to the recipe. Sharing a silly moment is great, as long as you make it funny. Selfies (only one letter away from “selfish”) are OK only if there is an explosion or alien attack in the background.

Be deliberate. Think about everything you share as reflecting back on you. You are building (or burning) bridges with the world each time you post. Avoid complainy, whiny posts, which make you look like a complainy, whiny person. Add value. Post things that are worth our time.

In a 2011 research study, psychologist Sally Farley found an interesting fact about gossip: when you gossip about someone, people are more likely to attribute those characteristics to you. It’s a phenomenon called “recursive attitude transfer”: if you complain to someone about your petty, mean-spirited co-worker, then that person will unconsciously think of you as the petty, mean-spirited one (which will be true).

Put another way, it bounces back. When you are positive about people, when you compliment or praise them to others, a little bit of that rubs off on you. When you add value, when you help someone, especially when you’re getting nothing in return, you earn a little golden Super Mario Bros. coin that can someday be redeemed for extra lives.

At our content marketing company Media Shower, we see companies frequently make two mistakes when it comes to posting positive. The first is to make a company blog that is nothing but press releases about the company. This is like inviting your friends over for dinner, then spending the entire meal talking about your kids. “Watch Sammy do her ballerina moves now. Look at her breathe. Oh, now she’s going to hydrate. Isn’t she precious?”

The second mistake is to post complainy, whiny blog posts under the guise of “helpfulness.” These take the form of titles like “5 Mistakes You’re Making With Your Business” or “The Key Thing You’re Doing Wrong” or “The Industry Change That Should Make You Very Afraid.” Even a great title can turn into a complainy post in the hands of the wrong writer. Positing positive is a mindset: we have to be trained not to complain.

When you post positive, you make everyone’s lives a bit better. You make Facebook better. Plus, you feel better.

Post positive. You’ll magnetize yourself for more positive to stick onto you.

Sir John Hargrave is the CEO of
Media Shower and author of the upcoming book Mind Hacking. This post is free to distribute under CC 4.0: if you like it, please share it.