23 Sep, 2015

The social media minefield

Following on from my previous blog about making social media work for you I thought I would mention the downside of social media—when it works against you.

Unless you've been on another planet for the last few months you can't have failed to notice the seemingly continuous stream of provincial and federal election candidates exiting the race due to social media faux pas. And to be honest what were they thinking was acceptable? Perhaps when those posts were made, some of them many years ago, the candidates didn't envisage they would be running for public office in the future.

the social media minefield

I was always brought up with the belief that if you can't say something nice say nothing at all. So why does social media now make it okay to be mean, spiteful, stupid, bigoted, racist, bullying, or spout any other nastiness? It's not anonymous! Those posts will haunt you to your grave... and beyond.

And it's not just individuals. Businesses, careers, and reputations can all be harmed by social media indiscretions. For example, you've heard the saying that if someone likes what you've done they'll tell a friend, but if they're unhappy they'll tell ten friends. Well with social media, if your business has done a good job then you might get some good press, but if you've done a lousy job then not only will that person tell their friends on social media, it may get shared, reshared, tweeted, and retweeted.

It's like Pandora's Box, once the lid is off then it's out there in perpetuity. The internet is just about the only way you'll live forever—barring cryogenic preservation—which means the good, the bad, and the ugly will always be there.

With social media so prevalent in our society there are millions of people who have posted things that they now wish they hadn't. It may be the prospective CEO of a multi-national company, someone applying for a security sensitive position, or any number of other jobs—in fact, just about any job on the planet.

Before long there is going to be an epidemic of people needing to legally change their names to escape their social media history. If your business is Googled what will social media say about it, or even you? Will it cement that great deal you've been working on, or will it send prospective clients running? Will you get that job offer you've been chasing hard for, or a Dear John letter?

Customers, clients, employers, investors, and even hostile takeover consortiums all resort to the internet out of habit now when investigating where their hard earned money is going. Don't let your personal or business social media indiscretions work negatively.

So the moral is, your business needs to take social media very seriously—not just for the "how can I benefit?" view, but also for the "what damage can it do?" view if you get it wrong. Make sure your business has an exemplary social media presence... it's also called providing great customer service.

And remember, before you post, if you can't say something nice then why not say nothing at all.