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When people accept new jobs, they’re filled with a sense of hope and pride, thinking about the money they’ll earn, the title they can show off and the corner office they’ll soon call home from 8 in the morning until 5 in the evening. As part of that new job, most people will be asked to sign a ream of paperwork, covering everything from health insurance benefits to sick pay to use of the company microwave. Buried deep in the fine print, however, are a series of rules concerning the use and abuse of social media. These wee paragraphs could provide you with a roadmap to a stellar online reputation.

The vast majority of large companies have social media rules, and often, they’re designed to protect the company from lawsuits. With policies like this in place, companies don’t need to worry about the horrible photos their employees post or the terrible things they might say about clients. The company can just fire the person who shares too much without suffering any kind of financial repercussion whatsoever.

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These rules also contain some good tips about basic online communication. The Adidas social media guidelines, for example, contain these nuggets of wisdom:

  • Don’t engage in any behavior online that you wouldn’t feel comfortable displaying in front of a group of coworkers.
  • Think about the consequences of online statements BEFORE you make them.
  • Don’t steal the photos or the words of another person.
  • Admit to mistakes as quickly as possible.
  • Remember that information posted online stays there forever.

Similarly, the social media guidelines provided by the Associated Press remind employees not to “retweet” any controversial messages, as these repeats might be viewed as a sign of approval. Similarly, employees are reminded that “liking” controversial figures on Facebook could also be interpreted as bias.

Following these little rules could allow you to avoid a significant amount of embarrassment as you go through your online life. You likely won’t get caught up in a scandal, saying impulsive things you’ll come to regret later, if you’re following rules like this. You might also keep your job.

We know that most people don’t read their employee handbooks or study the social media rules of their company. In fact, one man who worked for Lacoste, and who was fired for posting a photo of his paycheck on Instagram, told reporters that he signed documents containing, “…something abut social media,” but he admitted that he didn’t read the documents. If he had, he might still be selling Lacoste merchandise, and it’s likely he wouldn’t have a poor online reputation.

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  1. Todd Nilson

    Great post, Joe! Thanks for reminding us of the importance of “Think before you post” as an approach to managing your online social presence. I’d like to add to what you are saying by talking about online social monitoring. Most large corporations and many mid-sized or even small organizations have implemented reputation management for their organizations, watching for all mentions of their organizations. Some companies even go so far as keeping eyes on all current and past employees’ profiles for updates that could be compromising, affect reputation, or be signals that an employee has violated his or her confidentiality agreements. Paranoid? Yes. A little creepy? Certainly. But it’s a key consideration for companies whose reputations can be impacted by even one injudicious post by employees (Domino’s Pizza anyone?).

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