News stories on schools punishing teens for their social media postings are more prevalent now than ever. Many young people believe everything they post is private, and even if it is not private, they believe what they post is protected by the first amendment. A debate has erupted in the local media following the arrest of a Paulding County High School student who threatened three of his classmates via Facebook.
While the discussion of what is (and is not) Facebook appropriate may seem inexhaustible, the solution on the matter lies in one word: discretion. Just as small business owners have to exercise the concept in dealing with clients, discretion is key when it comes to protecting your online reputation and your (or your company’s) future.
Employers check social media sites when hiring new employees and anything questionable on these sites can hurt your chances of getting the job. Also important to understand is the longevity of digital material. Archived almost instantly after it’s posted, even if something is “deleted” from one site it can still remain in cached search engine results for a long time. Like the Paulding County boy, teens often post out of emotion and regret it in the future.
Even though you do possess certain online rights such as the power to respond to a comment, it doesn’t always mean it’s in your best interest to do so. Specializing in reputation management and public relations, McCauley Marketing has devised a list of tips to aid in building (or rebuilding as the case may be) your (or your company’s) social media reputation:
- Post positive and professional. Don’t make yourself (or your company) look bad by writing things that are blatantly hurtful or discriminatory.
- If you wouldn’t want your mom to see it, you should not post it online. Chances are your mom, along with numerous other people, will see it.
- Do not make threats. Serious or not, threats cause drama which will wear on your reputation.
- Be aware of what your friends are posting and saying about you. (This rings true for businesses as well.)
- Be conscious of the pictures you, or the employees linked to your company’s page, are tagged in.
- If you wouldn’t say something in public, do not write it online.
- Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know. Similar to friend requests, business owners should be aware of fan pages as anyone can post comments that may be inappropriate for your business.