By now you’ve probably read or heard of stories of employees getting fired or tweeting their way out of a job offer, by saying inappropriate things on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. One minute the future looks bright. The next minute they’re hitting the unemployment line.
It’s not just employees who make career-limiting comments. Small business personnel and freelancers have been known to say negative things about clients and customers.
There’s something about social media that lulls people into thinking their comments are private. But when you put anything out on social media sites, you should assume it is open and viewable by the world. Even private messages have been known to end up on sites like Gawker due to tech glitches (read “13 Intimate Facebook Messages You Weren't Supposed to See”).
Clients and customers may well end up following you or friending you on social sites whether you encourage it or not. You may think your clients are not savvy enough to find you on Twitter or LinkedIn or Facebook. But they could surprise you. Ever heard of the “search by email to find your friends” function in social sites? It’s not limited to finding “friends” – you can find colleagues, employees, and yes, service providers.
Even if you use a pseudonym, today’s identity sharing services such as Disqus and Backtype have a way of finding all of your identities and stringing them together, in ways that can make it easy for others to discover your online aliases and track your activity.
All of this means there’s a good likelihood that an actual customer or client will someday see what you write on social sites. So don’t jeopardize your relationships by speaking disrespectfully of them.
In case you needed to be reminded of it, here are 3 things never to say on social media sites, if you value your customers and clients:
“I hate this client” – First rule of business: never use the word “hate” to describe the person responsible for paying you money, on any kind of social media site. Even if you clearly intended the message to be about some OTHER client, here’s the unpleasant thought that goes through the reader’s mind: “Hmmm, if they complain about that other client, wonder what they REALLY think about me and my company?”
“I don't want to … talk to STUPID customers” – I found numerous variations of the “stupid customer” statement on Twitter just within the past 30 days. Some of them are made by people with real photos and names, so I imagine it wouldn’t be too hard for one of those “stupid customers” to put two and two together. And don’t forget Question/Answer sites; Facebook; Yelp; blogs; and discussion boards – all are places where it’s oh-so-easy easy to start a rant, or leave a comment – being careless in what you say.
“Supposed to be working” – This is a phrase you’ll find on Twitter dozens of times a day. Most references are innocent enough. They might say something like “I’m supposed to be working on a big presentation, but my computer is downloading critical updates.” But every once in a while you come across something the person tweeting would be better off not broadcasting to the world, such as “I’m supposed to be working but need one more beer before I go back to this client report.” Definitely TMI (too much information).
We all want to feel respected and valued. Clients and customers are no different. And in today’s environment where getting new customers is so tough, most of us can’t afford to insult a paying customer through thoughtless social media comments – or have a client or customer question our judgment based on what we carelessly say.