Social Media Matters: Silly disclaimer won’t save you on Twitter

Social Media MattersSocial Media Matters
By Brian Cormier
Moncton Times & Transcript
Friday, June 29, 2012
Metro section

Silly disclaimer won’t save you on Twitter

Recently, I witnessed an employee of a company go to great pains to stress that the views on his Twitter account were his own and did not reflect the views of his employer.

Unfortunately, the employee in question put the name of his employer in his Twitter profile, mentioned the employer in his tweets, involved himself in an unsolicited way in a company-related matter that was — to say the least — none of his business, and then referred all further questions to the president of his company. Yet, he stressed that he was just stating his personal opinion.

Because of this disclaimer, he likely believed that it inoculated him against being taken to task for anything he had to say, be it by his employer, clients or others.

Let’s get real here, people. If you get involved in an online discussion on a matter involving your employer (directly, indirectly or from afar), you’ll be perceived as speaking on behalf of your employer. Your comments may not have been authorized by your employer, mind you, but you’ll have to wear them – and so will your employer.

Take responsibility!

Remember, what you say online will reflect on you – either good or bad. I’ll make up an example.

Let’s say you work for a (fictional) company called Littlest Hobo Auto Sales and they sell vehicles made by ABC Motors. You work there, yet you dislike the new design of the 2012 ABC Zebra sedan. You take to your Twitter account (which describes you publicly as a sales representative at Littlest Hobo Auto Sales) and tweet the following: “I hate the new ABC Zebra’s design. Ugh! This is my own personal opinion.” You even post it on your own time from your home computer.

Do you honestly believe that you won’t be taken to task for your comments by the dealership’s sales manager or owner and that it won’t affect the company’s bottom line?

You’ve just criticized the company’s new vehicle offering in a public setting — and you sell them, too! “It was my own opinion and I tweeted it on my own time. I have the disclaimer up that my views don’t reflect my employer,” you’d reply. Not good enough.

It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee here. Even if you tweet under your own name and leave your company’s name out of your profile and your tweets, if people (including family, friends, media, competitors, co-workers, management) know where you work and you’re saying negative or controversial things, then be prepared for consequences. They may not be overt consequences, but things can happen behind the scenes about which you’ll never know.

Freedom of speech also comes with responsibility. You can’t walk into a crowded cinema and yell, “Fire!” You can’t expect to spew negativity online and have it not reflect on you and the people around you. Your clients are watching. If you want to post negativity, be prepared for it to bounce back.

You have the freedom to say what you want, but remember that people also have the freedom to react the way they want. Silly little disclaimers such as “My tweets are my own” are worthless, in my opinion. You’re going to wear everything you say whether you like it or not, and you can’t stop the people around you from judging you for it – harshly or otherwise. Employees on their own time must realize that their actions can affect their employment.

This week’s featured YouTube channels

Every week, I feature three YouTube channels for you to check out. Have a favourite channel? Let me know about it and I may feature it here! Statistics are current to June 26.

Glen Munro
Glen Munro

1) Brain Diesel (10 subscribers): Brain Diesel is a Moncton-based training company owned and operated by Glen Munro, a Microsoft Certified Trainer. For the past year or so, Glen has been producing a variety of training videos to help people better use Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel, in addition to a number of other tips and tricks related to online usage and other programs. To learn more about Brain Diesel and the training courses Glen offers, visit his website. (Most popular video: Cannot see thumbnail Pics in Windows 7 – 2,787 views.)

2) The Google Channel (636,812 subscribers): As the channel’s title clearly suggests, this is Google’s official YouTube channel. The channel hosts nearly 1,500 videos organized into 10 playlists that include Google Plus, 15-second Search Tips, Teach Parents Tech, and Life in a Day. In all, the huge number of posted videos have amassed nearly 600 million combined views. (Most popular video: Gmail’s new look – 29,947,756 views.)

3) Nickelback TV (255,733 subscribers): Bruce Springsteen isn’t the only hugely popular musical act to be gracing the Magnetic Hill concert site this summer. Moncton is also hosting Nickelback at the site on Saturday, July 7. Opening for the headlining band will be Three Days Grace, I Mother Earth, Arkells, My Darkest Days, and Gloryhound. The band seems to be one of the more polarizing acts in the music business with a large number of haters out there. According to a CBC New Brunswick report posted in April after the announcement was made, Detroit football fans petitioned to have the band removed from playing at an NFL halftime show last November when the Detroit Lions took on the Green Bay Packers. Despite the haters, the band’s YouTube videos have nearly 260 million combined views, so someone out there likes them! (Most popular video: Nickelback – Lullaby – 6,514,732 views.)

One Response to Social Media Matters: Silly disclaimer won’t save you on Twitter

  1. You write, “If you get involved in an online discussion on a matter involving your employer… you’ll be perceived as speaking on behalf of your employer.”

    Yes, but only by people who don’t know any better. If I were talking to you on the street, you wouldn’t think I was speaking on behalf of my employer. Nor would you think my Twitter account does the same.

    Yes, silly disclaimers are useless. They won’t dissuade those people who don’t know any better from completely misrepresenting who you are speaking for. Nothing will, actually.

    Does that mean I shut up and speak only in ways my employer would approve? No – it means I ignore the silly people who don’t know any better.