The United States has always been a sharing culture. It started out as person to person, then changed to newspaper to reader. These days, with the explosion of social media platforms, people are sharing more—and more often—than ever.
On the downside, however, social media now allows any company or employee to share whatever they're doing easily and instantly. While sharing can be fun with close friends, it can also be dangerous to you and your business.
Here are seven things companies and employees should never share on social media and how to prevent that from happening:
1. Your location. Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook allow users to post their location, and while it may be beneficial to say where you are, it can also be dangerous. For example, one user tweeted that he was going on vacation and when he got home, he found out his house had been burglarized. He attributed the burglary to his tweet. When it comes to your business, your customers and competitors don’t need to know every place you visit or every person you meet.
What to do: Turn off your location settings on Twitter and Facebook, and be careful about postings locations in real time.
2. Your Facebook wall. It's one thing to have someone tag you in a post on their Facebook wall so their “friends” can see it, but to let anyone post on your wall for your “friends” is risky.
What to do: Adjust these settings, and don’t allow other people to post on your wall. As a business with a Facebook page, if you allow followers to post, ensure that someone monitors your Facebook account hourly so they can respond quickly to remove inappropriate posts.
3. Your Foursquare check-ins. You want to be the “mayor” of a location? While there's nothing wrong with telling the world you visited a place, as mentioned above, be careful of being tracked to a particular point in real time.
What to do: Use Foursquare, but check in just before you leave, not when you arrive.
4. Your photo streams. There are settings on iPhones (and in Google+) that will automatically post online every photo your smartphone takes. While this may be convenient, is it really smart to do this?
What to do: Turn off these settings, and post photos the old-fashioned way: thoughtfully, manually and one at a time.
5. Your political views. Unless this is part of your company’s brand, refrain from posting about political, racial or religious issues. It divides many customers and can lead to a loss of business.
What to do: If your company wants to make a difference, get involved in nonprofit causes that benefit the entire community.
6. Your complaints about a competitor or customer. When you post anything on social media, you immediately lose control of the content and its context. And that's the last thing you want to lose when posting about a competitor or customer.
What to do: Never complain online about anything a customer or competitor has done. If you must communicate about the issue, use more private methods of communication, such as email (although remember, nothing is really private anymore).
7. Your inappropriate photos. Any photo you post should reflect your personal or company brand. Just because you always have a camera with you doesn't mean you need to take a picture of everything. “Selfies” can specifically distort your brand image.
What to do: Before posting, ask yourself, “Does this photo help or hurt my brand or personal image?”
When it comes to sharing information online, your best, first step is to think before you post. Count to 10, then ask yourself, “Is this something that should be shared with the entire world forever?” And more important, what would your mother think?
Read more articles on social media.
Photo: Cassandra Hubbart