November 12, 2009
The social media movement has expanded the number of people we can reach and connect with on a personal level. The new relationships and connections we create with people all over the world can have a profound effect on our personal and business growth. We learn about cultures and nations that we were, perhaps, previously ignorant of. None of this is a new concept, but what may be is how quickly you can destroy your business by using social media incorrectly.
Transparency is a Utopian Concept
Not too long ago, Michael Fortin wrote an article titled “Don’t Be Transparent, Be Authentic Instead”. That article is an important read for any social media wrangling business blogger and you can search for it online.
That article is the tip of the iceberg in the concept of ‘transparency’ being too Utopian to work within the jaded confines of our society. Of course, true transparency is ideal. Many things about a perfect world are. Unfortunately, as a group, most of the world isn’t ready or willing to accept true transparency without penalty.
When Transparency Fails
Let me give you a couple of examples of transparency failure we’ve seen.
Failure 1: We had a copywriter who was posting on Twitter about the work he was doing. He made several posts within a few hours which were ugly complaints about a client and how ‘stupid’ he felt that client was. We obviously considered this unacceptable and immediately removed him from our list of subcontractors, but think about this: If he was hoping to use Twitter to get more client work – how many potential clients just read that and thought… “I’m not going to risk being badmouthed on here, I’ll find someone else.” Everyone gets frustrated, but what if the client he was working on read that? Put it this way, if you wouldn’t say it to your client directly – don’t post it either.
Failure 2: We had a designer who was a day late returning her design phase work. When we contacted her, she said she had a family emergency the night before and was unable to send in her work because she wasn’t home. A quick check on Facebook showed that she was actually out at a party that night and posted multiple times while drunk talking about how much she was drinking and even hinting at wanting to bring a man she met there home with her. Obviously, we relieved her of the design work, handed it to another designer who caught up on the time schedule, and never again worked with her. In this case, people are allowed to have a life, we understand that. But if you cannot get your work done and have to lie about why – it’s a problem. If you do not have enough class to not post details about your ‘wild nights’ to everyone on your social networks — that’s also a problem.
How We Monitor Social Media Conversations
My business has been around for over a decade and is very focused on client satisfaction and excellent treatment of our web design clients. We have a network of hundreds of copywriters, designers, and coders who work with us on projects. However, even with screening of those experts when they come on board with us – you don’t always know someone until you have observed them over a long period of time.
That’s why we monitor what they say online.
How do we do that? Well first we get as many of their social profiles as we can. Usually, we ask for a list of them. We’ve also found that most people won’t provide them all. We then Google search the usernames of the ones they have given us because most people use the same usernames over and over. We also monitor blogs, and check for listings of social networks on those.
We have a system set up to consolidate all their social media comments into one master feed. That master feed can then be browsed directly to see what they’re up to, but that’s a lot of things to read each day. What we do is take the master feed, run it through a filter that creates two sub-feeds based on certain things we think are important to monitor. The first sub-feed is created by running the master list through a keyword & synonym filter that pulls out words related to business – for instance, “client” “business” “work” etc… The second sub-feed has a filter that runs their posts through a check for foul language and words like “sex” “drugs” “drunk” etc… There are hundreds of words in each filter.
Seem a bit ‘big brother’? It probably is – but reputation and client treatment is very important to us.
Here’s the thing: If we can read it and you can lose work with us over it… how many POTENTIAL clients did you lose also?
7 Ways to Edit Yourself
We’re not suggesting you stop having a life and stop making mistakes. You can post about those things and it simply makes you a more interesting person to read about. Just use common sense:
- If you wouldn’t say it to a client or boss – don’t say it where they can read it either.
- If you wouldn’t say it to your grandmother – don’t say it on your public posts.
- If you wouldn’t say it to a police officer – don’t post it on your social networks. For that matter, don’t do it either.
- If you plan to lie to your boss – don’t put the truth where they can see it.
- If you plan to go out and get drunk and know you have a tendency to post while drunk – give your phone to a friend to keep for you.
- Learn how to use privacy settings and understand how visible your posts are on different social networks.
- If you want a place to vent – create a completely different identity for yourself to do that. Name no names in your posts, and make no connection to your other profiles or email addresses.
Consider it all part of Internet Etiquette. Social networks are great to hear more personal things about someone and we encourage people to share a bit of themselves online (using normal cautions etc..). In the long run, full transparency is too Utopian for our modern world to handle well. We’re still at a point in our societal growth that when someone seriously calls a client an idiot – they tend to get a bit upset about it.
Nicole Hernandez is a web developer with a specialty in web standards and accessibility. She is the owner of Website Style and publishes technical articles on her blog called Beyond Caffeine.