By Guest Author Carol L. Morgan
Have you heard of professionals who faced serious negative consequences due to mistakes or lack of professionalism online?
Social media allows businesses to engage with consumers and colleagues online and while the benefit of this popular form of communication is great, the risk can be too.
Potential employers, professional contacts and even new personal contacts will research you online first; what they find may determine whether or not they decide to continue building a relationship with you (or bring you in for a job interview). This is why it is so important to maintain a professional image online.
Your involvement in social media may be influenced by your profession '“ you can imagine, for example, how physicians, lawyers or teachers have to be very careful about what they share.
The George Washington University Law School Career Development Office suggests we all are really (or should be) two different people '“ the person that we are online and the person that we are in real life. The best way is to avoid problems is to simply not post any personal information (who we really are with our family and close friends) online. Or, you could create two online profiles, one for your close friends and one for everyone else. Of course, many sites have policies against having two profiles. And even with two profiles, those lines get blurred. Sometimes you rush and misspell a word in an important email and sometimes, a friend posts a picture of you with a beer at a football game.
Whether you are communicating via email, text, social media, or another electronic method, there are a few basics you should keep in mind:
In addition to the tips above, I also wanted to share some email and discussion list etiquette.
Email Etiquette: When communicating with someone you know well, you may be able to bend the rules on some of these (for example, I sometimes do use a smiley face), but it is only with established clients or close colleagues and in specific situations.
Discussion List Etiquette: Professional etiquette regarding politeness applies in discussion boards as well. Discussion boards can be a great way to make acquaintances online, establish your expertise, learn something new, etc., but very often, conversations on discussion boards can get out of line.
If you're a business owner or manager trying to decide who in the organization should contribute to posting on your company's social media sites, the importance of picking the right people cannot be understated. There are countless stories of Social-Media-Manager-Gone-Wrong out there, from the poster lashing out at customers and competitors in a public forum to posting personal information accidentally (thinking they are signed into their personal social media accounts). Handling social media is often times left to an intern or a junior member of the team, which is a mistake. The person or people handling your social media posting should be someone who knows the company, its inner-workings, values and processes well, and knows the industry inside and out. How often have you read a blog post and thought, 'Did a high school student write this?'? Chances are you may not be far off.
In closing, you should think of what you put online as both permanent and public. Quick or careless decisions or actions posted online could haunt you forever. Even if a post is removed, cached versions of web pages are still able to be viewed, duplicated and reposted, as can be images and text, and deleted files can be retrieved. We all know that a majority of employers are researching job candidates online first, so bottom line: Be careful about what you post. Always think through how whatever you are posting could reflect on you personally, professionally and on your company and its success.
This featured article is by our friend and colleague Carol L. Morgan, who is a public relations and social media marketing specialist and managing partner at mRELEVANCE. Carol has 20 years of experience in the real estate and construction industries, earning herself the reputation as the go-to person for social media marketing and all things public relations. Her success and experience has led her to author two books, 'Social Media For Home Builders: It's Easier Than You Think'? and 'Social Media For Home Builders 2.0'³ and create the top online forum for Atlanta Real Estate.