Recently I was reading a blog post by social media and communications expert Dave Fleet – Getting Started: Social Media Policies For Your Company where he discusses what corporations need to consider when it comes to employees using social media – both at work and at home.
It got me thinking. What if you’re a solopreneur with no employees? No, you don’t need a formalized social media policy manual, but I do think it’s worth putting some effort into thinking about your own social media usage. A personal social media policy if you will.
If you are using social media for both business and personal usage, this is of particular importance. But even if you only use social media for personal use, what you say and do can still come back and bite you professionally so you need to put some thought into what you say.
We’ve all heard stories of young people posting photos of themselves drinking or doing drugs and having those photos prevent them from getting a job – or even an interview. I don’t really expect baby boomers to be doing that. We know better.
But there are other areas in our personal lives that could turn potential customers away if we’re not careful. The first thing that comes to mind is religion and politics.
We’ve all heard the saying not to talk about religion and politics at the dinner table. These are subjects that many people feel passionate about and can lead to heated discussions. Now in my family, there’s nothing we love more than a heated discussion – particularly about religion or politics – but not everyone considers debate to be a form of sport so you need to tread carefully.
When it comes to talking about these sensitive topics, you need to consider if you are willing and able to work with people whose political and religious views are radically different from your own. If you don’t really care about your clients’ personal beliefs – you can work with anyone – then you might want to be circumspect. After all, you don’t want to turn away potential customers because you said something that offended them.
Talking Politics on Social Media
For example, last week I happened to be listening to President Obama’s televised speech while monitoring Twitter. The President said something I found particularly interesting (can’t for the life of me remember what) so I Tweeted about it. I got a snarky @ reply that I took to be tongue-in-cheek so I laughed. This is someone whose Tweets I’ve always enjoyed. He has an interesting sense of humor and sends lots of great business links and information.
Out of curiosity, I clicked to his Twitter page to see what other conversations he’d been having regarding the speech. I was a little nonplussed to see that his snarky comment to me wasn’t meant to be humorous. In fact, it was the tamest remark he’d made all evening. He seemed to be using Twitter to attack anyone who had anything positive to say about the President.
His viciousness turned me off his conversation that evening, but has also permanently coloured my perception of everything he says. And it’s not that his political views are different than mine (well not the only reason). It’s how aggressively he went after everyone. Before this event, I would have happily done business with him or referred business his way. Now … not so much. His use of Twitter to express his personal views has had a negative impact on his business persona.
On the other hand, if you feel strongly about working with people whose views are significantly different than you own, then don’t worry about talking about these issues. People whose beliefs are different from yours will self select themselves out of your prospect list and move on to someone else.
What about religion?
For example, some months ago I was talking to a publicity expert who has very strong religious beliefs. As it happens, she kept being approached by organizations to promote views and causes she was not comfortable with. She didn’t feel right about helping to promote their causes but also didn’t feel right about turning them away.
I responded that I thought it was perfectly acceptable for her to refer them to someone else. First, one of the joys of being self employed is choosing who you work with. You are absolutely free to say ‘I’m prepared to earn less money in order to avoid working for someone whose views I find offensive.’ Second, if she feels so uncomfortable about the causes these clients are asking her to promote, then she’s never going to give them her best work. Both parties would be better served if she referred these clients to someone who could enthusiastically join their team.
The key here to remember is whatever you say on social media lasts forever. Make a conscious decision about what you will and won’t discuss and be prepared to live with the consequences.
Andrea J. Stenberg
Do you have any examples of taboo subjects (or things you wish were taboo)? Do you agree with what I have to say or am I too senstive? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.