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When Common Sense Is Not So Common: Social Media Mistakes

There has been a plethora of examples of mishandling social media lately. The most obvious would be  Anthony Weiner whose mistaken tweet unveiled a history of inappropriate conduct that came to light at the worst moment – days before his wife found out she was pregnant with their first child. His blunder, and more importantly his attempted cover up, resulted in a resounding chorus from his fellow politicians calling for his resignation which is official today. His blunder ultimately cost him his job.  Last week, the PR agency, Redner Group, also made a social media misstep. After a slew of negative reviews for the “Duke Nukem Forever” game from their client, 2K Games, the agency tweeted that they were going to start reviewing who would receive games to preview.  Not so smooth. The agency ended up losing 2K, their biggest client.

Redner Group and Weiner are not alone though. Social media mistakes have cost many people their jobs or some of their biggest clients. Do the names Octavia Nasr and New Media Strategies (better known as Chrysler’s social media agency) ring any bells?  Check out Mashable’s list of 10 people who have lost their jobs due to social media mistakes.

Social media is a tool and just like any other tool, it can be destructive if used improperly. Companies, public figures, and even journalists are oftentimes in the social media spotlight. It is important to remember that someone is always watching, and sites like Twitter and Facebook have proven that information in the social media era travels fast – really fast. So whether it is a typo (like a @ instead of a D, right Rep. Weiner?) or just poorly thought out content it can be expected to spread quickly, and be difficult to control.

Social media is impactful.  It has changed the way we consume news and information, how we interact, and even how we express ourselves (hashtag handsign?). With its ability to do so much good,  it’s disappointing to see social media being used inappropriately .

Whether you are using social media on a personal level or on a corporate level, here are some things to keep in mind.

Understand that the internet is not a private place

Hacking groups like LulzSec and Anonymous have recently been putting mass amounts of private information at risk, forcing the question – is anything really private on the internet? There have been a push for legislation that will better protect personal privacy on the internet, but until those ideas are hammered out and agreed upon there may not be political backing for online privacy for quite a while. In the meantime, realize that the information you put out there – whether your tweets are protected and your profile is locked – has the potential to be seen by people you don’t want looking.

Even simpler than that, the smallest of typos can take information intended for one person’s eyes only, into the Twitter feeds of more people than you ever imagined, which brings me to my next point.

Use your head

Common sense people! Realize what you are posting, tweeting, direct messaging. If it even has the potential of coming back to bite you, think twice about it before you hit send – Please! Simple as that.

Consider a separate personal account

For most people there are two facets of their lives – life at work, and life outside of work. Of course there is some overlap, but I’m sure your behavior at the bar is much different than at the office… or at least I would hope. Consider separating your social media as well.

If that is not an option, then keep your professional profiles …well, professional. There is nothing wrong with some personal outreach, but keep the majority of the presence of your personal life to a minimum.

The truth will set you free

Well … maybe not free, but this is a PR cornerstone that stands firm. Thanks to Google Cache, deleting your social media mistake does not necessarily mean that it disappears. Instead it can still be housed on Google’s server and appear in Google searches. Not to mention, fans, followers and haters who could just as easily have taken a screen print. As mentioned before, information spreads like wildfire on social media, but it’s difficult to control. If you did make a social media blunder and you find yourself in hot water, own up to it and just be honest. The fact that Anthony Weiner lied about his online behavior was as responsible for the hubbub of Weinergate (and ultimately his resignation) as the pictures themselves. Honesty cannot save you completely, but it sure helps in the long run.