Do Leaders Use Common Sense with Social Media?

In today’s world, social media venues keep people connected and let others know about your products and services. They can develop the camaraderie necessary to trigger the waterfall effect of “know me, trust me, buy from me.” However, as leaders, social media can make or break your career or business if not used wisely.

There are differences in what is appropriate for business professionals to post and repost, versus an individual who is merely exercising her/his personal liberties. All too often, there is such a fine line between the two, it is best to keep in mind these postings can be viewed by everyone, not just your friends. Unfortunately, most people will not differentiate between what they consider to be poor business acumen and personal fun.

Some examples:

  • Posting inappropriate pictures of people’s anatomy, signs, etc.
  • Dissing a company, or venting about your boss, co-workers or customers.
  • Inadvertently violating privacy laws (e.g., HIPPA in the United States).

Company Policy. Today many companies have already faced the challenge of writing social media policies to communicate clearly the difference between acceptable company and personal usage. These guidelines help employees (and executives) clarify what is appropriate to be posted and reposted. Keep in mind that any posts (e.g., pictures, commentaries, ideologies, etc.) must clearly be viewed as your own, and not a reflection upon your company/employer. Understand current and future employers and customers may view your postings from a different perspective. Unfortunately, they may infer that you don’t have the business savvy or leadership common sense to work in their company or be promotable within your own company.

Global Market. Although it is true citizens in many countries throughout the world have the freedom to say what they want, when they want, doing so can hinder their ability to attract new clients, or keep current ones. Especially since most social media venues are world-wide, take into consideration any cultural differences when posting. What may be considered normal in one country may not be acceptable in another one. Writing disparaging remarks about your company, boss, co-workers, product, and services might cause slander claims in many places around the world. Adhere to this familiar personal rule: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.

Privacy. Complaining about your customer’s requests or client’s peculiarities will only hurt you, and may even cause them to leave. Or they may be vocal in return, and cause you to be terminated. Be sure your employees (and you) understand confidentiality and how to abide by it. Not talking about others on social media venues would be the best practice. If you need to vent, talk with your coach. Here’s a sobering thought: Once posted, your rants may be available for others to view for a long time … maybe even throughout your lifetime and beyond.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2011