BY ALEJA SEABRONEvery day, I work closely with clients to develop their social media presence. One of our main priorities is differentiating them from the rest of the luxury ground transportation industry by highlighting their fleet, geographical location, and values. I’m constantly talking to clients about improving their business image and brand recognition; however, I don’t get much opportunity to delve into their personal profiles. It seems so taboo to tell someone how to “live their life,” so to speak.
It doesn’t take long to realize that this industry is a tight-knit community: Everyone knows who’s who and we all attend the same events, some of which can get pretty wild because we’re a fun bunch! But it’s one thing to let loose with each other while we’re in a social setting, and another to carry that onto your social channels.
We’re spread so far across the U.S. (and beyond) that members of our industry rely on actively communicating through Facebook and social media in general to stay connected. This often gives us a false sense that our profiles, friends’ profiles, or closed groups are “safe” or private spaces for unguarded casual conversation—and this belief can lead to trouble.
Admit it: We all have so many people on our friends list that we sometimes forget who’s even on there! With Facebook’s algorithms constantly changing, I don’t get the opportunity to see a lot of my close friends’ posts pop up on my timeline these days. Aside from that, only a fraction of my friends actually take the time to engage with me, which makes me wonder if they even see my posts at all—until out of the blue, someone I haven’t talked to in years is suddenly liking my status updates again, which shocks me because I’m reminded of how many people are or could be watching my social media activity.
If you’re too wild, too political, too offensive, or too intense, you take the very real risk of alienating not only your industry peers but also your clients with your online persona."
It’s easy to spot the difference between the online and in-person personas of my industry friends. I’ve met people who seem so carefree and charismatic in person but become very private and all about business online. I also have many crazy friends whose personal profiles mirror who they are as an individual. I don’t encourage either extreme. If you’re all about business on social media, you can be perceived as not “human” enough. If you’re too wild, too political, too offensive, or too intense, you take the very real risk of alienating not only your industry peers but also your clients with your online persona. And while some people have found that sweet spot between the two, most have not.
If you’re thinking about creating two separate accounts to satisfy your Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde complex, let me stop you right there. According to Facebook’s policy, “Facebook is a community where people use their authentic identities. It’s against the Facebook Community Standards to maintain more than one personal account. If you want to represent your business, organization, brand or product on Facebook, you can use your personal account to create and manage a Page. Keep in mind that a personal profile is for non-commercial use and represents an individual person.”
Bottom line: If you want to talk about business, a company page is the way to go. But even on a company page, keep your audience in mind. Don’t simply offer deals: Offer helpful articles and funny photos to show both your respectable and personal sides.
Your personal profile is where your personality should be showcased. But what do you do when your true personality might be too much? There was an interesting article recently posted on Forbes (which you can read in full at goo.gl/LJ2MGw) about personal social media profiles. The article warned that what you post, like, and comment on can affect your business and potentially turn off existing or would-be clients. These warnings could also be applied to potential affiliates and partners. As business owners, we need to be careful of letting our personal interactions negatively influence our professional image.
Bad Posts Ruin Lives
Rather than listing all the “don’ts” of curating your social media image, some real-life examples of bad posts bearing real-life and life-wrecking repercussions might be a more sobering and tangible lesson in what to never, ever post.
• Don’t share any pictures that may be perceived as denigrating towards your customers or your client-base. For instance, an Arizona daycare worker made the news in February when she was fired for posting pictures giving the middle finger to unknowing children in her class.
• Don’t post any nude or risqué photos. Former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner gained infamy when he had to resign from his position after tweeting naked photos to a female follower. Furthermore, don’t post lascivious commentary on others’ pictures as well, as this will show up on social media feeds and can be read by customers.
• Don’t be insensitive when tragedy or natural disasters strike, like Conde Nast’s food and recipe arm Epicurious’ gaffe in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. “In honor of Boston and New England,” the company tweeted, “may we suggest: whole-grain cranberry scones!” Followers who hoped it was an overlooked pre-scheduled tweet were proven wrong when the company later posted a recipe link preceded by “Boston, our hearts are with you. Here’s a bowl of breakfast energy we could all use to start today.”
• Don’t be racist, like the Georgia school teacher who lost her job over her history of posting Facebook comments attacking Muslims, Hispanics, and First Lady Michelle Obama.
• Don’t be hateful, like Canadian sportscaster Damian Goddard. The Rogers Sportsnets anchor lost his job in 2011 after expressing his support of “traditional” marriage in a flurry of tweets on his personal account. Likewise, don’t be sexist, either, like the Toronto firefighter who posted about how he would tell any woman who confronted him that she should get back into the kitchen and make him a pie.
• Don’t make your vices public, like Carly McKinney. In addition to posting scantily clad pictures of herself, the high school math teacher also took to social media to share photos of her smoking marijuana while in the driver’s seat, and was summarily placed on administrative leave.
• Don’t forget what account you’re logged into. If you have access to your company’s social media accounts, it is always worth checking just one more time to ensure that you’re not mixing up your accounts and theirs. It’s an easy mistake to make: Just ask Scott Bartosiewicz, who was fired from the company that managed Chrysler’s internet communications when he dropped an f-bomb clearly intended for his own followers but wound up on the automotive company’s Twitter account.
• Don’t call in sick and then post pictures of the good times you’re having when you should be at the office. This is the stuff of modern-day urban legends, and the internet is awash in stories of employees calling out sick to work but heading out to party all day, forgetting that the coworkers and bosses they’ve friended on social media are privy to every photo of dance-floor antics and each tequila shot they’ve posted to commemorate how much fun they’re having with their “sick day.”
Here’s what you CAN do: Be aware of who you’re friends with! Don’t post publicly, and remember that your cover photo will always be visible to everyone, social media friend or not—so choose wisely. When you’re on a friend’s page, be mindful of their privacy settings and who they might have on their friends list. If you are posting in a group, don’t swear, don’t be rude to colleagues, and stay away from heated debates unless you have something truly valuable and helpful to add to the conversation.
If you have a lot of industry friends on your page with whom you are only lightly acquainted with, put yourself in others’ shoes before you post. Will this make someone else uncomfortable? Is this cringe-worthy? Is this offensive or mean? Would I show this to my top client, coworker, or mother? Take the time to familiarize yourself with the privacy settings and posting capabilities of each platform.
A final rule of thumb: If your friends list is mixed and you don’t have list restrictions in place, then only post it if you would be comfortable being judged for it. Most digital missteps are quickly deleted but that doesn’t mean that those you’ve offended will forget your hurtful post nearly as easily. [CD1116]
Aleja Seabron is the Social Media Manager for The LMC Group. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.