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10 Social Networking Posts That Sink Careers

This year, resolve to avoid social network updates that could put your career in trouble.

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Social networks are a veritable minefield for professionals these days. Saying the right thing on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other social platforms requires thought and finesse. Saying the wrong thing is all too easy. And don't be fooled into thinking that what gets shared in your circle stays in your circle. As with email, anything that you post on social networks can be easily shared. (That's kind of the point.) Following are the types of updates that could get you, your company, or both into trouble.

1. "I am SO bored at work."
Maybe today is not a very exciting day at the office, or maybe you just have a really boring job. But it's a bad idea to proclaim this or other negative feelings about your workplace for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that such posts could affect your next evaluation and will almost certainly cause bad feelings with co-workers who are up to here in work and not especially appreciative of your apparent downtime.

2. "Working on a hush-hush merger project."
During sensitive periods, such as during a merger or when legal action is being taken, companies can get into a lot of trouble for disclosing certain information. If you know you are not supposed to talk about a company-related matter in public, don't assume you can do so on social networks--even in an oblique way.

[ Using LinkedIn? Read 9 LinkedIn Etiquette Tips. ]

3. "So weird--there is NO ONE in our office today!"
This type of post is unwise for a couple of reasons. First, it makes your company look bad. (Your hyperbole may be taken literally.) Second, such a post can be an invitation for theft or even espionage. (Put this in the can't-be-too-careful category.)

4. "My company kicked [insert competitor's name here] to the curb today with a big sale to [insert new customer name here]."
You may have great intentions, but, as stated above, you have to be careful when disseminating any company information. Most companies have acceptable use policies that govern employees' Internet behavior, and more and more are including language specific to social networking or are developing social networking-specific policy. It's important in any case to find out whether you are authorized to post company-related information and, if so, when and in what context. When in doubt, don't post.

5. "So glad I am outta that lame company and onto something new and great!"
Remember those old sayings about not burning bridges or it being a small world? Truer words were never spoken. It's great that you got a new job and are looking forward to moving on. But, in this economy, you never know how secure your job is. What if your "something new and great" doesn't work out, and you have to consider going back to that company you insulted? Or, more likely, what if you end up working in some capacity with people from your old company? Besides all of that, it is simply unprofessional to badmouth professional contacts or connections.

6. "Didn't get that promotion :("
It's not necessarily bad to post that you didn't get a promotion or had some other kind of professional disappointment, but it can make you look weak if that's all you post. You can turn your disappointment into opportunity by owning what happened but then describing what you plan to do to effect a more positive outcome in the future.

7. "Me and Joe had a grate time at the beech,"
Spelling, grammar, and punctuation count.

8. "I got so wasted at the concert last night! Lucky I made it home ;)"
Really? Does it not go without saying that this kind of post is unwise? Your social networking presence is a reflection of who you are and how you will act in any situation--personally or professionally.

9. "Thank you for your comment. We appreciate your business." "Thank you for your comment. We appreciate your business." "Thank you for your comment. We appreciate your business. ..."
Companies also have to watch what they say, or don't say, on social networks. The good news is that many are seeing an uptick of customer input on their social networking presence. The bad news is that some companies are responding with robo-comments. So, whether a customer is lauding a product or complaining about service, he or she (and the rest of the community) sees the same response from the company. This is bad social networking practice, and bad for business.

10. " "
Silence is not golden on social networking sites. Companies that don't respond to customer complaints and compliments, or that don't update on a regular basis with special offers, news, games, polls, and so on--things that make it worthwhile to like a company on Facebook or follow it on Twitter--will soon see their fan base, and a golden social opportunity, dwindle.

Surely you have seen some posts on social networks that have made you cringe and fear for the poster's professional life. Please share them here, or, if you would rather remain anonymous, email me.

According to our Outlook 2012 Survey, IT should expect soaring demand but cautious hiring as companies use technology to try to get closer to customers. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek: Inside Windows Server 8. (Free registration required.)

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Leo Regulus
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Leo Regulus,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/3/2012 | 8:52:00 PM
re: 10 Social Networking Posts That Sink Careers
Very correct, EVERYTHING counts and nothing is ever forgotten. A few tips for the healthily paranoid: (1) Use a disposable e-mail account to set up your social networking site. (2) The name of the account should be as anonymous as your password. (3) Use a pseudonym / 'pen name' for your social account name. (4) Remember that the friends listed on your account reflect on you as much as the content of your account (do you really want your employer to know that you are friended with Casey Anthony, for example? (5) Use separate accounts under different names for pure family, professional relationships and casual friends / acquaintances. Do not mingle them. (6) Go back over all of your existing posts and edit out anything that would embarrass your mother at a church social. - You get the drift. (Last) Remember, being 'cool' could just possibly get you kicked off an airplane flight. Have a great New Year !
Leo Regulus
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Leo Regulus,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/3/2012 | 9:12:12 PM
re: 10 Social Networking Posts That Sink Careers
OOOPS, I forgot something in my other post. DO NOT post your own picture. You may use a pet, cartoon character or other image that tickles your fancy.
TreeInMyCube
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TreeInMyCube,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/3/2012 | 9:38:28 PM
re: 10 Social Networking Posts That Sink Careers
Number (5) in the comment below should be listed first; it's the most important. Separate any posting you are doing professionally, or as a part of your job, from your personal/family/friends posting. My employer doesn't want to see cute pictures of my kids, and my cousins don't care about my work experience on sites like LinkedIn. I agree with the suggestions in the post by Ms. Donston-Miller. On your personal social networking page, you can express anger and frustration, as well as happiness or sadness. Life is not all rainbows and unicorns, of course, but it is possible for your boss or HR to (eventually) access some of your postings. Don't post things that are damaging to your friends, colleagues, or your employer.
Bprince
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Bprince,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/3/2012 | 11:13:26 PM
re: 10 Social Networking Posts That Sink Careers
These posts to me are more of an argument to either not have an account or to not "friend" anyone at work. The other possibility is to have more than one profile, with the second being a more personal one for select friends and family only, thereby clearly delineating your professional and personal life.
Brian Prince, InformationWeek/Dark Reading Comment Moderator
Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/3/2012 | 11:31:59 PM
re: 10 Social Networking Posts That Sink Careers
Thank you for the insight!

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/3/2012 | 11:32:38 PM
re: 10 Social Networking Posts That Sink Careers
Thank you for the insight! I think there is no such thing as a social DMZ when it comes to venting about your job (past, present or future) on social media.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/3/2012 | 11:33:34 PM
re: 10 Social Networking Posts That Sink Careers
Thanks, Brian. I just wonder if you CAN separate your personal from professional lives these days.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
SA22
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SA22,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/4/2012 | 5:56:56 AM
re: 10 Social Networking Posts That Sink Careers
While I agree with most of what you say, I find it hillarious that you recommend having an alias at every turn. What's the point, I mean really? If you are simply going to put on a facade for the masses, why bother? The bottom line is... I post business, I post my personal opinon on social issues and I post reality in my life. Now, I am very competant at my job, and certainly don't go bashing my co. or my competition, however instead of alias, how about we consider that people are human... that in reality I don't care who you follow - if you are good at your job and passionate, I would much prefer the honesty of your personal opinons that a 'resume' on social networking sites.

The whole idea of social is to open doors to new ideas and to build acceptance of each other - no matter what your opinion on the next election, the latest sex scandal or who you choose to follow.

While I get the jest of what you are trying to say - I am truly disheartened by the suggestion that you show one face to these people and another to 'others'.

How about we begin to learn diversity, differences, lifestyle choices.
sdevinelon
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sdevinelon,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/4/2012 | 1:55:48 PM
re: 10 Social Networking Posts That Sink Careers
Whilst I would agree with your points concerning company confidentiality it's interesting to note that all this seems to bring out the worst in us with respect to prejudices and petty likes/dislikes. In reality, people are rarely as straightforward or one dimensional as reading a few facebook comments or tweets may suggest. And the trick that companies as a whole are missing is that there is an incredible amount of information to be mined concerning the true wellbeing of their workforce from social networks e.g. Employee Satisfaction normally suggest everything is hunky dory when in fact the reality is somewhat different. Would it not be beneficial to allow this type of feedback to be leveraged without penalty?
GoodCat206
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GoodCat206,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/21/2012 | 4:27:13 PM
re: 10 Social Networking Posts That Sink Careers
Sure it's not too smart to write things like, "Gee I am SO bored today." But the real question is, why are so many talented people working in jobs that require so much meaningless face time? Why doesn't the company find ways to keep their people challenged and motivated?
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