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Developing a Personal Social Media Policy

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Your identity is shaped by your social media profiles.

Earlier today, Nikki posted about the importance of Creating a Social Media Policy for Your Business. This is something that too many companies overlook, so I was glad to see her address the issue. I’d like to talk about something related – having a personal social media policy as a blogger or even just as an individual.

Let me tell you a short story.

Allison’s Short Friend-of-a-Friend Story

A friend of a friend worked for a small video game company. The company was working on a few games, and when they were bought out by a larger video game company, her team was replaced and she was laid off. It happens. Fast forward a few months down the road, and she was hired by a competitor to the large game company.

Every year, there’s a huge video game event in Los Angeles called E3. It’s only open to press and people working in the gaming industry, and after the event every night, large companies typically have after parties and networking events. While at E3, she attended the after party event of the company where she used to work, which is understandable, as she hadn’t seen her coworkers and friends in a few months, and this was an opportunity to have a few drinks with them.

The problem? She tweeted about it from her personal account. Come Monday morning, she was fired from her job. Apparently, her boss followed her on Twitter and wasn’t keen on the idea of her attending social events of a competitor or promoting it on Twitter.

Justification?

While I do think that my story is an extreme instance of an employer using Twitter as a reason to fire an employee, they were justified in doing so, even if she was tweeting from a personal account. Having a personal social media policy is extremely important if you’re working for someone else, or even if you’re just blogging for yourself.

Why were they justified in firing her?

  • She was working for one company, but publicly promoting one of their competitors.
  • They had no history with her, so they had no way of knowing whether or not they could trust her to be loyal to their company.
  • She was at the event on their dime, so she should have been doing work for them, not hanging out at any party, competitor or not, unless authorized to do so.

But let’s back away from this specific situation a bit. Say you’re not an employee anywhere (or at least not anywhere that cares about social media). You’re just Anonymous Joe/Jane, tweeting about your day. Why is it justifiable that anyone persecute you for anything you say on Twitter or any social media site?

You make the choice to put your feelings on public display. You can keep things to yourself if you want, and people don’t really have the right to persecute you for your personal beliefs. If you bring those personal beliefs to a public forum, though, it is open season.

The “Anonymous” Internet

Unlike the girl in my story, you don’t have to connect your social media persona to your real life identity. In fact, I know many people who don’t, just to maintain anonymity. Something that I wish more people would realize thought? Just because you’re saying something anonymously doesn’t mean that it is OK to be a jerk. Too many people use the Internet as a dumping ground for thoughts that they’d never dream of saying “in real life.” Um…the Internet is real life too, kids. There’s something to be said for gaining confidence as someone who is shy, but if what you’re saying is too rude or mean to say to someone face-to-face, it is also too rude or mean to say online.

Developing that Personal Policy

In a round-about way, what I’m trying to get across to you in this post is the need for you to have a personal social media policy that you keep in mind when using sites, even if you aren’t in danger of being fired for your tweets. It boils down to three main questions that you should ask yourself every time you tweet (or update another social media profile:

  1. Would I be ashamed if my mother/spouse/kids/boss/etc read this update?
  2. Does this reflect the image I want to portray of myself to my readers/followers?
  3. Is the opinion reflected in a clear way, so as not to cause confusion about what I really mean?

And, the overall question that you should be asking yourself is this: Will I be upset if people unfollow/unfriend me because of this update? A good example of this is that I tweet about having a glass of wine while working from time to time. Some people might think badly of me for drinking “on the job,” but to be honest, those people aren’t really the people who I want on my friends list anyway. So, if you read that tweet and decide to unfollow, that’s fine by me.

If nothing else, I hope that this post reminds you that people are watching your activity online. Tweet at your own risk.

Allison Boyer is a writer for BWE’s blog and the owner/manager of After Graduation. Despite her love of a nice Reisling, she doesn’t accept payment for her freelancing services in wine. Yet.

Image credit: sxc.hu

Allison Boyer freelance writer and content marketing consultant. She also runs the food blog The PinterTest Kitchen with her mom and sister. You can follow her shenanigans on Twitter (@allison_boyer) or contact her at allisonmboyer@gmail.com.


Feedback

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  • Nikki

    Wow, I have to say that story sounds a little harsh to me!! It’s like Dooce all over again. But I guess it’s hard to say without knowing exactly what she tweeted … and I guess if it was on their dime … but still. I wonder if they had a policy in place for the business!!

  • Allison

    I definitely think in this case they were looking for a kosher way of firing someone, because “I want to promote the hot blonde who I’m crushing on” isn’t exactly a good idea. Her tweet was pretty harmless – just said “I’m at the Company X event, stop by and say hi” or something along those lines. Still, her employer did have a point. I too wonder if they have a company policy for tweeting on personal accounts. It certainly sounds like they need one if they’re going to be this harsh on people. Employees at least to deserve to know when they’re breaking a rule.

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