Ahh, social media. Where from the comfort of your living room you can make your point of view known to millions of people. People and businesses have gone from virtually unknown to global phenomena (think “Gangnam way”) thanks to social media. Then there are those who fell from grace like a lead balloon (think Roseanne Barr, Anthony Weiner, or Paula Deen) because of social media. Both rises and falls can happen quickly and without warning. Sadly, it doesn’t even have to be true. Fake news travels as fast as the truth. It just has to be tempting. It also doesn’t have to go viral; a handful of viewers may see something that will alter their opinions of the person posting.
That viewer could be your current or future boss, customer, or business partner.
Before continuing, I want to be very careful to treat this issue with respect and not take sides on any political, religious or social issue. My goal is to shed light on social media and how it might affect your professional livelihood, not to tell you that a point of view is right or wrong.
Suppose you are an entrepreneur who you would like to be a customer. You and I have met for coffee several times and we seem to be getting along. You make friends with me on Facebook and you want to get to know me better to understand how you could help me solve my business problems and gain my trust in a business relationship. After connecting on social media, I see very passionate posts of you mocking a point of view I have and telling people like me that we must be idiots to support such an egregious position. Then you say something like, “If you believe in
Looking at the above scenario, there are some guiding business relationship principles that seem to go out the window with many on social media:
Not everyone thinks the same as you.
Just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean the world should know.
When your posts are vague or pervasive, let the reader decide what you meant, which could be quite different from what you intended to convey.
You can be denied a job due to questionable posts on social media. According to a survey sponsored by The Manifest, 90% of employers look at the social media profiles of potential employees and 79% have rejected a candidate based on what they found.
If you are trying to sell an idea or convince people to act a certain way, you shouldn’t do it by telling them how idiotic they are.
I want to illustrate this last point. Imagine walking into a car dealership and the salesperson greets you at the door. You tell him that you want to buy a car and he asks what you are currently driving. You take him to your car and he proceeds to tell you how ugly the car is and how dumb you are for driving such a disgusting vehicle. Do you think this person is credible and wants to buy you a car? I daresay there is no chance. Yet this is what I see over and over on social media. People tear other points of view to shreds and berate everyone who believes in those points of view, rather than simply extolling the positive benefits of their own point of view.
When posting on social media, keep the following five takeaways in mind:
- Assume everyone sees everything – I heard that some entrepreneurs with commercial and personal profiles use that as a license to not filter in personal profiles and more restricted in commercial profiles. The problem is that the two are not always mutually exclusive. There are many people I know in my business life with connections in both our personal and business profiles. What I see posted on their personal profiles influences how I think about them in a professional setting. Sadly, some whom he professionally admired have had their credibility affected due to what they say on personal social media profiles.
- Be clear about what you post and why – Personally, I love posting photos of places we travel, experiences we have, and foods we eat. We do it in large part to let friends know what’s going on with us and to have harmless fun. We also have a happy hour review website where we post happy hour reviews of local restaurants that have told us they help others in the area decide where to go for happy hour. I professionally publish information about our different businesses to engage current and future clients.
- Knowledge is knowing what to say, wisdom is knowing when (or if) to say it – Just because you have a point of view on something does not mean that the world should know it. I know several professional people who choose not to discuss their social, political or religious views on social media. Wise move.
- Assume you live forever – Platforms like Instagram have stories that disappear after a set period of time. That won’t stop someone from taking a screenshot of the post and sharing it elsewhere. Suppose everything you post will live forever and you could bite back.
- Resist Post When Upset or Upset – There are many examples where someone posted something only to have to apologize later for an “error in judgment.” Meanwhile, the post goes viral, then the person tries to delete it to no avail after being captured and shared over and over again.
There is no doubt that social media is a fundamental tool to promote your point of view and build your business and professional platform. Just avoid being a Jekyll in person and Hyde on social media.