Profile disclaimers do not shield you from the consequences of your actions

profile disclaimersThese disclaimers may be more accurate, but they won't save your job. Image credit: Scott Berkun
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They’re mostly seen on the Twitter profiles of people who are higher-ups in their companies, entrepreneurs who are trying to establish their brand, or anyone whose tweets will reach a wide audience.

The two most prevalent are “RTs [retweets] are not endorsements” and “my opinions are my mine and not of my employer.”

They’re frequently added as a condition of your employment, or at the suggestion of your employer should you end up with a company account.  I’ve seen articles where employers decline to take action against someone who decides to be brash, bold, or even offensive on their Twitter account because in their mind “those tweets aren’t representative of the company.”

One of the reasons prospective employees’ social media accounts are viewed and vetted prior to hire is to ensure that your social media conduct shows that you aren’t going make a mockery of the brand.  They also want to see how responsible your social media usage is, including what types of information you’ll share with your friends.

There is the hypothesis that the employee will scrub their timeline and conduct themselves properly while on a job hunt, but once the position is secured, they return their old ways.  Someone with a good feel for social media can tell when someone is laying low while the job search is on, versus someone who values how they come across.  Don’t forget that social media activity isn’t limited to tweets and posts; it includes engagement on threads, updates that you ‘like’ and share on Facebook, and can be something as minor as sharing a meme with profanity on it.

When you work in a position where you’re pushing the brand’s message, upholding and promoting its culture and values, speaking for the it in a time of crisis, and have access to inside information confidential to the public, it doesn’t matter what disclaimers exist in your profile; your employer is empowered to, and will take action they deem necessary if they see something damaging.  Lest we forget:  Any update or engagement has the potential to damage a brand’s image and reputation.

Finally, while you can clarify to your heart’s content that your opinions or statements are not reflective of your employers, it’s more than likely that your customers won’t feel the same way.  Your customers/clients, suppliers, vendors, partners, and other stakeholders don’t care that it’s your opinion – they care that something was tweeted or posted from someone that speaks for the brand.  How will they react the next time they have to interact with you?  Suppose you’re meeting up with them to announce a new partnership – will they want to be associated with you, especially in taking a picture?

Some people think that the moment they assume a position where they tweet for widely-known and trafficked brand that they have to discard their personality and become a stuffy suit.  To the contrary, this is where knowing the brand’s culture, tone, and personality are crucial to doing the job.

From my perspective, I would follow these simple guidelines:

  1. If something affects your brand and people external to the company start contacting you for details, remember that you should only share information authorized by the company.  Much as it may pain you, your first duty is to your company, then to everyone else.
  2. Be yourself, but be mindful of your audience.  Every company’s social media policy is different in what employees aren’t allowed to do whether on or off company time.  Your employer is entrusting you with the keys to the brand and if you intend to make a career in it, your reputation will follow you as you change jobs.
  3. Keep an eye on who is following you on Twitter.  Check their profiles and vet them.  The competition will want a leg up on what’s happening in your company, and journalists are always looking for some piece of news to turn into a story.
  4. Know your company’s chain of command, who you report to, and who you can turn to when fellow employees try to task you with using the brand’s social channels in ways that won’t benefit the company, and/or ways that could harm the company.
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About the author

Mike Rana

Mike Rana is one of those people who is hard to define, though he's not immune to being labeled for something. He likes to talk about many topics including technology, business, politics, education, psychology, and human behavior. In his spare time, Mike enjoys traveling, people watching, analyzing the world around him, writing about his life experiences, absorbing information from various social media channels, and trying to be the voice of reason in the political arena.