With modern technology and social networks available at a mere push of a button, contact with others and marketing ones business is easier than ever. What many do not consider is the negative impact certain information may have on our business and/or reputation and how other professionals may perceive us based on what they find out about us on the Internet and by this I am referring to the information we may post on our personal profiles.
Many have personal profiles on Facebook, Twitter and other similar sites that show the more casual and carefree side of our personalities and we are encouraged to share (or over share in many instances) every little mundane detail about our lives but what we must bear in mind is that perhaps we wouldn’t want prospective clients, current clients and other professionals in our field to have such an in-depth insight of what we get up to outside work.
Whilst social media definitely serves its purpose in the business world, there are also has obvious pitfalls that many have fallen into just by not being aware of their actions. How many stories have there been on celebrities who have landed in hot water by not being cautious? Not to mention the rising amount of people who have lost their jobs due to unsavoury behaviour made public on these sites and lets not exclude self-employed persons who aren’t exempt either from the downside of social media as it could just as easily be a prospective client who reads your profile.
Take a look at the following examples:
1. A now famous tale is that of Ashley Payne, a Georgia (USA) public school teacher who was forced to resign when the school board heard in an anonymous email of pictures posted on her Facebook profile with alcoholic beverages in her hand at a bar in Europe. Even though she was cautious about befriending students, she did befriend colleagues and it would appear that some of her pupil’s parents were able to view her profile and did not like what they saw. Her case is slowly making its way through the legal system but in the meantime she has been unsuccessful in finding another teaching position.
2. Gloria Gadsden, an associate professor of sociology at East Stroudsburg University (Pennsylvania, USA) wrote on her Facebook wall, “Does anyone know where I can find a very discreet hit man? Yes, it’s been that kind of day.” On another occasion she wrote, “Had a good day today. DIDN’T want to kill even one student.” While these comments can be seen as harmless banter about her day and amongst friends would probably not raise an eyebrow, the University didn’t share the same view especially when you consider the amount of school killings in recent years. Gadsden was put on indefinite paid leave that lasted for one month before she was allowed to return to her position at a later date.
3. Former U.S. House of Representatives congressman, Anthony Weiner resigned from this position for forwarding lewd photographs of himself to someone via Twitter. His mistake? He accidentally sent the photo as a public tweet instead of a private message which sparked a huge public outcry for his resignation from office. Such a simple mistake has cost him dearly.
A survey conducted in the USA where 650 Human Resource managers were consulted showed that about 76% agreed that technology etiquette breaches can harm a person’s career ranging from serious consequences in the work place to immediate dismissal. Don’t become a statistic!
Even though we all have the right to let our hair down and have fun, how can you protect your personal life from your professional life?
Consider having separate profiles, one for your business and another personal one for friends and family. Another way of protecting yourself is to increase the level of security on your profile so that you can control exactly who sees what content, photos, comments etc. Think carefully about the information that is visible on your site and who can access it. Use your professional site for just that and only include information that pertains to your business, ie professional contact information, goals, selective comments about the goings on in your field, professional photographs and links to professional content. All other details such as funny anecdotes, personal photographs, inappropriate behaviour or comments and links should be reserved for your personal profile only.
The comments and photos we make visible on these social networking sites are a reflection of ourselves whether they take place outside work or not because if they are seen by people in our professional field such comments can detract from our credibility and cost us much more than we may imagine. Clients, employers and others can relate them to our work ethic or even as undesirable traits they would not want to have connected to their own business so it really is a matter to be considered seriously.
Don’t become a statistic and think twice before hitting “Enter”.