Yesterday, I became "that guy." I'm an experienced social media professional, know the dangers of mistaking personal and professional accounts, and had just this week discussed with my team ways to diminish the risks of mixing up accounts when posting to social media sites. And yet, last night I made the classic social media blunder: Thinking I was on my personal Facebook page, I accidentally made a status update that resulted in my employer, USAA, broadcasting an opinion of American Idol's final duo.
It's not that our brand isn't personal or doesn't have personality in social media; in fact, it's not outside the range of possibility that the community managers on my team might decide to start a conversation about American Idol with our members on Facebook. But, that should be a carefully considered post and not something done carelessly.
I rapidly deleted my post, but not before it garnered some "likes" and a few comments, both positive and negative. Then, moments later, someone added a comment to the USAA wall asking if a Facebook administrator had just mistakenly posted a personal thought to the corporate fan page. Guilty! I fessed up (with my real name) and apologized. I got some nice supporting comments (since our members are the best and are willing to forgive), and life went on.
I'm ashamed and asked my community managers to (literally) slap my hands with a ruler, but they didn't because they're the best and are also willing to forgive. But, I learned a couple lessons worth sharing:
- Have a personal filter: The fact you are responsible for a company's social media profile doesn't mean everything you say personally has to reflect the brand's personality, but you must consider the implications of your posts. First, once you are officially associated with a brand, anything you say in your Twitter or other social media streams can reflect upon your employer. Plus, there's always the chance you pull an Augie and mix your personal thoughts into the company's channel.
My mistake could've been the stuff of headlines--the reason you're reading about my mistake here on my personal blog rather than on ABCNews.com is that the tone and content of my erroneous update were mildly, not wildly, off the mark for my employer's fan page. This is because I have a personal filter. I strive to keep things positive in my social media interactions, so even when I post something negative ("I liked American Idol better before it became Country Idol..."), I attempt to include an equal portion of positivity ("...but both of the finalists earned their way here with hard work.") If you set a personal social media filter and avoid criticizing entire cities, dropping an F-bomb, or mocking a news organization for blathering, you diminish the risks to both your employer and to you.
- Keep them separated: With apologies to The Offspring, you gotta keep 'em separated--your personal and professional social media tools, that is. For Twitter management, it is too easy to set up both your personal and professional accounts in a single Twitter client such as HootSuite or Tweetdeck. Doing so is a recipe for danger. Use different Twitter clients for different purposes, and you'll greatly reduce the risk.
Unfortunately. Facebook doesn't easily allow for that sort of separation. If you are the admin for a page, you will post as that page when on the fan page and will post as an individual elsewhere. Since your wall looks a lot like your company's wall, it is easy to fail to notice when you're on one page rather than another, resulting in errant status updates. One solution is to use a third-party Facebook management tool (which is what we do at USAA), but most administrators still check their fan page in a browser, and therein lies the danger. There isn't much of a solution other than taking care (more than I did), but Facebook could certainly help matters by making your posting state more evident and controllable.
My infraction was minor and the repercussions negligible; I get to keep my job. You may not be so lucky--if you say the wrong thing in the wrong channel, you wouldn't be the first person to lose your job over a seemingly simple mistake. Protect yourself by reconsidering the personal filters and standards you bring to your social media interactions, and sever your personal and professional accounts as much as possible. Doing so could protect your company's reputation--and your job!