Social media, as anyone who follows the news knows, can get you in a world of trouble. During times of crisis or tragedy, an ill phrased Tweet can lead a celebrity to a mountain of misery. But this is certainly not exclusively a celebrity problem, nor is it limited to public events. Consider Cella, a young Texas woman who sent a crude Tweet updating her followers about a new job she was about to begin. Her new employer read the Tweet, and fired Cella on Twitter before she could even punch in on day one. That's right, she was fired via Twitter.
We've written before about social media and branding, stressing that your company's employees can be valuable contributors in creating a professional brand. What is equally evident is that they can also seriously harm it.
Social Media in Professional settings
If you and some of your colleagues find yourselves at a conference that openly encourages Twitter interaction, all of you need to follow proper etiquette (Twitiquette?), or risk damaging your brand and reputation
Let followers know that you'll be sharing this event over the next several hours
You might have only a handful of followers who would care about this event, so it's a good idea to warn them about what's coming. Begin with something like, 'Excited to learn all about #widgets today @widgetcon.'
Utilize the official event hashtag
There probably is one, so spell it properly. 'No empty seats in Suite 202. #WackyWidget'
Learn the Twitter handles of all speakers
This is a good technique for getting influencers to follow and/or retweet you. Again, proper spelling is important. '@MontfordProfiterole'
Cite your sources
Never use a quote from someone without properly identifying the source. '@MontfordProfiterole: #widgets are better that kittens and puppies. #WackyWidget'
Tweet in moderation
Seriously, if you were impressed by something, say so. Quoting and sharing practically everything is unnecessary at best, and appalling at worst. 'Go to Instagram for picture of the long line to the bathrooms. #WackyWidget'
Please don't use this time as a forum for grievances, whether you have a complaint about the caterer, a speaker, your parking '- whatever. This is not the place for negativity. 'This was a total waste of my day! #WackyWidget'
When the professional meets the personal
How often have you been approached by a professional acquaintance to connect on social media? I'm not referring to coworkers (which creates its own list of challenges); but clients, customers, and colleagues. Often the request comes via LinkedIn, which users rarely confuse with their other social media feeds, so embarrassing posts are more unlikely than on other sites. However, apps like HootSuite or TweetDeck can link all posts, so it's advisable to disable your LinkedIn feed from synching with your personal accounts.
The problem becomes more acute when your contact wants to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. These are accounts which largely contain the most personal information, so discretion is advised. You have been placed in the awkward situation of wanting to be nice to someone you deal with in the workplace and realizing that you may have to censor yourself. While Facebook and Twitter settings can be somewhat customized, there are nonetheless few restrictions on what may, or may not, be viewed by your followers. Instagram is wide open.
Of course, most people should understand that these pages exist for fun, but it only takes one misunderstanding to derail a relationship with a client. One option is to clearly state in your profile that, 'All opinions are my own.' This directly addresses the fact that you are not representing your company in your posts. I've also seen, 'All content on this page is personal.' This covers you in the event that someone else posts something potentially inflammatory or damaging on your page.
Social media is a two-way street. You may likewise see something posted by a connection which might embarrass them, or offend you. How should you respond, if at all? Above all, always be discreet. Place yourself in the situation of this individual, and understand that everyone has a right to freedom of expression. If you can't overlook it, unfollow, but don't block, this individual. If you are questioned about it, just say that you felt it would be better to keep all relationships professional.
Which might be the best advice for us all.