As a marketer and professional speaker, I am periodically asked to speak at local high schools and colleges about the value of social media as a marketing tool.
In those presentations, I usually digress a bit to remind the young people that their personal posts can have lasting effects, positively or negatively, on their careers. The message is lost on most of them, but at least I tried.
HR professionals regularly check social media sites to learn the "real story" about applicants.
For my own hiring needs, I have encountered more than one candidate whose Facebook posts regularly slam their current employer with multiple expletives and comments about calling in "sick" to play. Why would I hire a person like that?
Social media can also have negative ripple effects for comments you believe to be innocuous. When I can't sleep, I often surf Facebook. Several years ago, during one of my 3AM surf sessions, I played a silly game - what is your witch name. It was one of those first letter of your first name stands for this, etc. I posted my "witch name" and went to sleep. Over the next several days, multiple people in my personal and professional spheres questioned my new Wicca following. I laughed it off, but deleted the post to silence the murmurings. Months later, two more people brought it up. I couldn't see it, but it still existed in cyberspace. Scary.
In another example, a friend posted several photos of me when we attended a conference...including one of me riding a mechanical bull. The photo was not inappropriate and I was not drinking, but I asked her to take down the photo to avoid any sense of impropriety. My reputation is too important to risk a misunderstanding.
With the recent election and inauguration, social media has been abuzz with abusive and rude comments from both sides of the aisle.
I, too, have passionate feelings about many subjects some people may consider controversial. But with the nature of my work, I choose to express those comments professionally, in my own way, and rarely on social media.
So when it comes to the internet, remember two important rules: