Did You Really Post That Online?

What you post to social media sites can affect your boss and your customers.

By Lana Straub

We all understand the draw of social media. It makes us feel connected to people across the globe. It’s an instant gratification of commenting on thoughts of people you know and don’t know—and often their almost instantaneous responses—no matter if we are from Texas or Tokyo.

One of the problems with posting to the Internet is the posts are forever. Even if a site has been taken down or is offline, there are still tools like the Internet Archive (https:// archive.org/web) that can help you find postings written many years ago or on defunct websites. The site states you can “Explore more than 279 billion webpages saved over time . . . including site search.”

Thought you deleted that comment? Maybe you did and maybe you didn’t. Maybe you should check Internet Archive and see for yourself.

But what’s the big deal, you ask. Everyone uses social media all day long, you say. Well, as we saw in the most recent presidential election what you say and do on social media can have far-reaching ramifications.

So what are some of the common pitfalls of being on social media and how can you avoid them? If you own a business or if you work for someone else, you need to understand what you say and do can have a lasting impact on the way others see you and whether they do business with you.

Think no one will be influenced by what you think? Think again.

I know you’ve seen the stories on the news. Someone uploaded a post on Facebook about telling their boss they are sick but really went to the movies one afternoon. The boss heard about the post and fired the person.

Sometimes, Facebook posts can even make national headlines. CNN reported last November about a West Virginia mayor resigning due to a Facebook exchange in which the mayor used racist language to describe first lady Michelle Obama. Around the same time, CBS News reported about a different county official from Tennessee forced to resign over comments about the Ku Klux Klan that were posted on Facebook.

In both instances the county officials had little or no regard for who might read their social media posts and how they might react. They were interacting with friends and colleagues online and probably had no idea their comments would make the national news. However, in an interconnected world, it’s prudent to be mindful of how far-reaching our online interactions can become.

If you are an employer, you should know while your employees’ Facebook posts might aggravate you from time to time, you need to be careful your social media policies aren’t too restrictive.

The National Labor Relations Board protects the rights of employees, making sure your policies comply with fair labor practices. If employees are accessing social media to “meet” and discuss labor issues at your workplace, you can’t do much about it.

The NLRB states on its website: “The National Labor Relations Act protects the rights of employees to act together to address conditions at work, with or without a union. This protection extends to certain work-related conversations conducted on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.”

But if you’re an employee, don’t mistakenly think the NLRB has given you carte blanche on your posts. As Robin Madell reported in U.S. News & World Report in a June 2015 article, “The 3 Biggest Social Media Snafus That Can Cost You the Job”—careless posting, talking about your boss, and failing to control your social identity can be detrimental to your online as well as offline employment prospects.

Some employers rely on social media profiles as a method of determining who is a right fit for their company. Careerbuilder.com conducts an annual survey to determine how big a factor social media is in hiring managers’ decisions. Their 2016 survey found “60% of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates, up significantly from 52% last year, 22% in 2008, and 11% in 2006 when the survey was first conducted.” Adds CareerBuilder, “Additionally, 59% of hiring managers use search engines to research candidates, compared to 51%.”

So have you Googled yourself lately?

Think no one sees your posts? Think again.

One of the biggest reasons to watch what you say on social media are the ramifications from or to the people that follow you. I can’t count how many times I’ve been told by someone they read a post or reply I made on social media. I never saw a “like” meaning the person saw it while scanning online.

“Pretty interesting that you feel that way,” they’ll add at times. Whoa. Back up. You mean you’re judging me based on something I shared or liked? You mean people can see what I’m doing on Facebook even if I don’t post any comments and put them in my newsfeed? Yes, they absolutely can.

Facebook has a neat little tool that exists in the upper right corner represented by a world icon. This is a notifications button. It tells you what everyone you follow has been up to since you last logged on. You can also turn on the notifications feature on your phone which means you’ll get a pop-up message across your phone each time someone you follow does anything. They post something, they like something—you’ll know.

It will also tell you when they like or comment on a page of someone you don’t even know. Finally, if someone comments on something you liked on your friend’s page, it will let you know. As you can see, it doesn’t take long for people to get connected quickly.

LinkedIn has a similar tool that tells everyone what you’ve been up to since they’ve been offline. They also have a notifications menu in the form of a flag. It tells you who has been checking out your profile or your posts as well as telling you what your colleagues have been up to since you were last online.

Think no one saw it because they weren’t online when you posted it? Think again.

Your friends weren’t online when you made your post, so they didn’t see it. Right? Wrong. Don’t forget about the emails that social media sends your followers.

As if your followers getting instant notifications of your activity weren’t invasive enough, most social media outlets now send your followers emails to make sure they know what your daily and weekly activities online have been. “Hey look what Joe Contractor just posted,” Twitter will advise. It can be great for advertising because it gets your followers engaged.

However, if you post something inappropriate, your followers will know that too. Understand if you’re participating in heated discussions in online forums, people who follow you are getting notifications of that activity.

I always feel like somebody’s watching me . . .

So now you’ve probably got the lyrics to the 1984 Rockwell song “Somebody’s Watching Me” running through your head, but it’s appropriate. I’m not trying to tell you to stop being active on social media. What I am saying is people you know as well as people you don’t know are seeing your activity.

For example, I had just posted a link to one of my radio stories on social media at the time I was finishing this article. My tweet about the radio story has more than 1500 impressions (people who saw it) and 13 interactions (people who clicked on it). I don’t know several of the people who interacted with the item. I especially knew few people who liked or shared it more than 20 times on LinkedIn, another site I posted the story.

Bottom line: What you say and do on social media matters. People see it. Customers see it. Your boss will see it.

Be ready to take responsibility for any posts just as if you had been talking about someone and they walked in on you in the middle of the conversation. Communicating on social media is a conversation—with ears reaching all over the globe.

Lana Straub, with a background in the legal and financial aspects of small business, is the office manager of Straub Corp., Stanton, Texas, an environmental and water well drilling firm owned and operated by her family for more than 50 years. She can be reached at Lana@StraubCorporation.com.