by Tony Vidler
You would think professionals would take more care of their reputation. I mean it is their livelihood, right? You’d also think that professionals using social media would set themselves some guidelines on what stuff they will and won’t allow to have atached to their reputation…but nope. Confusion about what one should or shouldn’t do, or where one should and shouldn’t play abounds.
If there is one golden rule of using social media that we should constantly refer to, it is “Think before you Tweet“. Or “Facebook”…or “Tumblr”…or any online channel.
Apart from the usual politicians making total gaffe’s, we’ve seen financial advisers and fund managers lose their positioins or significant chunks of business for derogatory comments against segments of society….and then we have the various “big game hunters” proudly posting photo’s of themselves and the virulent reaction globally or the senior executive with the pathetically racist tweet about probably not catching AIDS on a trip to Africa…the examples of professional self-destruction can go on and on.
But nope. Professionals continue to blunder in this space pretty regularly.
By now it should be pretty well understood that a single tweet, or message of 140 characters or less, is all it takes to end a career or lose a business. For many professionals who have perhaps a few hundred or a few thousand followers that seems a rather extreme statement to make – surely one mistake might cost some fans and followers, but not an entire reputation?
Think back to the dentist from Minnesota who spent all of his liesure time shooting Afraican animals on safari and then posting pictures of it. It didn’t matter how many LinkedIn connections or company facebook followers he had…what mattered was how many those opposed to him had. One post however had millions around the globe villifying him, and it resulted in him having to close his practice.
As an aside; I am not expressing sympathy for the dentist either. It is just an excellent example of how to lose a professional business due to the power of social media.
The wonderful upside of social media from a business perspective is the viral nature of it. That unfortunately is also it’s nasty downside. When you get something wonderfully right, then you can truly get the world talking about it. When you get something horribly wrong, well, you can get the whole world talking about it…
There is one thing to always remember with using social for business:
Given the value of your reputation over your entire working career, it is not unreasonable to suggest that there are potentially millions at stake with every post. Any prudent professional or business owner should mitigate that risk by putting in place some controls. The key things to remember, and look to control where possible, are:
Looking beyond these parameters you then need to consider language, or tone, and humour. For myself I am comfortable allowing some of the language I do actually use (which we’ll call “strong Anglo-Saxon adjectives”) and humour into my use of social media. They are after all a part of who I am and how I operate, so people may as well be aware of that. I’ll take the risk in other words. That is not necessarily going to be the case though if I had staff managing the social media accounts on my behalf though…so the use of humour and the language you will tolerate being used in your name must also be deliberately considered and then managed.
Having done so though, and following the principles outlined, and the risk of reputation damage is minimised, if not eliminated entirely.
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