In a now deleted post. Five simple words. If you’ve read the headlines or scanned social media within the past few months, you’ve seen those five words often. It’s an almost daily occurrence nowadays. And, even though the post has been deleted there seems to always be a screenshot of the posts. Why? Because there is no such thing as deleting. If you have said it online it will come back to haunt you (eventually).
What can you do to avoid being a subject of an “in a now deleted post news story” or more importantly avoid losing your job or a lucrative contract due to a social media post gone wrong?
Here are a few tips based on my years of experience in corporate marketing, brand and social media. Two of my passions are all things social and all things People Court. This article is a cautionary tale of how these two passions intersect.
Tip 1: Perform an audit of your social media accounts.
Examine what you have posted as well as what accounts you have liked and follow. Do you remember your first tweet?
Tip 2: Just like diamonds, posts are forever. Think before posting.
So think carefully before posting. Deleting a post does not delete it from the internet.
Kevin Hart lost an opportunity to host the Oscars in 2019 due to the controversy surrounding homophobic comments he made nearly a decade ago.
Oscar hosts reportedly make $15K - $25K to host. Can you afford to give up a $15K gig? I know I can’t. Additionally, what about the time and energy spent in the upcoming months doing damage control. I'd rather use a public relations team to amplify my good deeds instead of trying to manage the negative.
Tip 3: Be Kind.
Remember the 80s mantra from Blockbuster, “Please Be Kind and Rewind”. It applies to social media, please be kind to your neighbor.
A college professor lost his job when he tweeted Hurricane Harvey was payback for Texans voting Republic. There were over 60 deaths attributed to Hurricane Harvey. Some will say this is a political issue. But, it’s not. And, if you see this as a political issue, you are part of the problem. But, that's a post for another day.
We’ve stopped being human. Who wishes death and destruction on a group of people?
Tip 4: Be selective in your responses.
Everyone has an opinion. Does that mean you need to share it all the time? The answer is no.
Social media has allowed everyone to star in an epic made for tv mini-series called “My Timeline” and "The Highlights of My Fabulous Life". We have become travel advisors, financial advisors, relationship coaches, money coaches, and more! And, in the process have generated some awesome content.
However, I encourage people to think critically before posting.
My daughter and I teach a social media workshop for tweens and teens. Before posting you should ask yourself:
(If you'd like us to speak to your Girl Scout Troup, Children's Ministry or the young people in your family, click to book us.)
Is my comment helpful?
Does it add substantially to the conversation?
Would I be okay if I was quoted in the media?
Is it harmful or hateful?
Are you knowledgable in this area?
Have I checked my message for tone, grammar, clarity, etc.?
Tip 5: But, I have freedom of speech.
Here's a comment from an article about the Crossfit CEO who made insenstive comments surrounding George Floyd's death. "I guess basically if businesses don't reply in a politically correct manner they are ousted. I guess free speech only applies in certain cases." Honey, yes you are correct. You can say whatever you will. And, the first ammendment applies to how the government treats freedom of speech. I am free to spend my money as I desire and to ask those companies who rely on my dollars to not do business with certain entities. And, again, these turn into matters of race. But, it's about humanity. The ex-CEO of Crossfit also said George Floyd's murder was an attempt to cover up a money laundering ring. Most of the times these one off comments hit at systematic issues. Read more about systematic issues of racism of Crossfit here.
But I have freedom of speech! Why can’t I post that? Well, you can. But, there may be consequences. As my mom used to say when I was younger, don’t let your mouth write a check that your behind can’t cash. (Note, I was not an abused child). I learned early in my life that my words have consequences.
Note: The Second Amendment concerning Freedom of Speech says: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. It doesn't state your employer. So, you'll notice that there are folks employed by the government such as college professors who are not normally fired for outrageous social media statements. (I'm not an attorney again, but this is what I've observed numerous times.) Most recently with the case of Lt. Col Betsy Schoeller who posted that harassment is the price of admission to the good ole boy network in the case of murdered SPC Vanessa Guillen. She most likely will not be fired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The university has condemned the statements but said it cannot legislate private speech of employers.
Tip 6: Learn the rules of engagement. Familiarize Yourself with Your Companies Rules and Policies
When you signed up for social media platform you agreed to their terms of service. When was the last time you read the Terms of Service for Facebook? And, you probably sign off each year that you read your employee handbook as well. When you see cases of employee terminations it’s typically NOT because you violated the social media policy of the organization but because you violated some other policy. You should make sure your post doesn’t violate one or both of those policies.
Here’s an interesting case about a nurse who treated a child for measles. She posted that is was a horrible experience within an anti-vaccine Facebook group but that she still doesn’t believe in vaccines. A parent of a child admitted to the hospital where the nurse worked saw the post, took a screenshot it, posted on the hospital's Facebook page, and asked if the story was true. The nurse was terminated for violating patient privacy and HIPAA. A nurse's salary is nothing to sneeze at!
I follow “The Dancing Doctor” on Instagram. He has great content featuring him and his patients dancing. I recall him sharing on his IG that he worked with the hospital to create a special waiver and his patients look forward to dancing with him as a form of their physical therapy. Anyhoo, social media can be done right as long as know the rules of engagement.
There’s another case from Arkansas featuring Office Tommy Norman who has more than 1M followers on Instagram. He posted exclusively about the residents of Little Rock, Arkansas where he patrolled on his Instagram account. Then the department said he could no longer post on social media while on duty. They were just enforcing a rule that was already on the books.
Tip 7: Everybody Ain’t Your Friend: Review Your Friend List
Another word of advice passed along from your mom. I’ve read a lot of these cases and one of the common denominators is a friend or coworker. Your “friend” / “coworker” will be one of the first folks to screenshot your post and send it to HR and ask “is this okay?”.
It’s a good idea to review your friend’s list on a regular basis. Be selective about who you friend. You may need to unfriend your coworkers. Real talk.
Tip 8: Groups Are Not Private. Stop Oversharing in These Groups.
Hello! Screenshots exist. Folks will screenshot and repost your content with the quickness. Be careful in groups. Anything you post online can and may be shared publicly beyond your original intent.
As Judge Marilyn Milian of The People’s Court often says “say it forget it, write it regret.”. And, there is another saying that says you have two ears and one mouth because you should listen more than you speak.
Tip 9: Don’t Become the Next Viral Post
You may think you’re not on social media, so this doesn’t apply to me.
Let’s look at the case of an Ohio Senator who is also a medical doctor. He said during a hearing “I wonder if colored people get Covid-19 from not washing their hands as much.”. Because this post isn’t about diversity and inclusion, I’ll just say COLORED people is not an acceptable term. EVER! It didn’t take long for one of his employers to terminate him. Moral of the story, don’t say dumb stuff. You may not decide to post it but others will do the honors for you.
Here’s another case featuring a New Jersey corrections officer and a FedEx driver following the George Floyd protests. Why were they terminated?
Well, don’t they have freedom of speech you say? Yes, but this probably violates the company policies around diversity and inclusion. Here’s an excerpt from the FedEx site:
Diversity and inclusion at FedEx connects people and possibilities to deliver a better future for team members, customers, suppliers and communities.
Research proves there are many benefits for businesses that make diversity a priority and promote inclusion. But there’s another, far more important reason why we embrace diversity and inclusion: It’s simply the right thing to do.
Freedom of speech limits the government's ability to restrict your speech not your private employer. There are exceptions to this rule and they are frequently at colleges and universities and with private employers. (I’m also not an attorney or giving legal advice, but you should know the rules for your employer.)
Maybe you’ll get re-instated and get your job back if you’re wrongfully terminated. But, is it worth the expense of an attorney and are you able to live 6-12 months without a regular source of income. I can’t. For me, it’s not worth the risk.