10 Social Networking Posts That Sink Careers

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

Debra Donston-Miller

January 3, 2012

5 Min Read
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10 Smart Enterprise Uses For Twitter

10 Smart Enterprise Uses For Twitter

10 Smart Enterprise Uses For Twitter (click image for larger view and for slideshow)

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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