One thing that many people often overlook when encountering a corporation on social media is that there is a single human being attached to the tweet, update, or blog that they are reading. This link shows what can happen when someone in charge of a corporate social media outlet goes too far, or posts content that is too personal. The problem, from a corporate standpoint, is how to generate content on social media that manages to attract new customers without offending their existing customer base. In other words, what corporations seek to achieve is a social media presence that almost perfectly mimics the social media presence of an individual yet inherently lacks the actual freedom of speech held by individuals.
The responsibility, of course, lies with the content creators. A single lapse of judgement can easily lead to being fired if one is in charge of a corporate social media outlet today. One must never forget who they are representing when posting online.
Below is a tweet earlier this week in reference to a popular true crime podcast called Serial.
Within minutes of this tweet, many thousands of users on twitter attacked Best Buy for what many considered to be a crass exploitation of a tragic situation (the murder of a young woman in Baltimore in 1999). They then deleted the tweet and offered the below pictured apology.
Did Best Buy go too far? On one hand, they did indeed make a joke about a tragic situation, but what many people failed to take into account is the fact that the Serial podcast, which has been downloaded by over 5 million people, is in and of itself, a form of entertainment. Furthermore, the huge amount of attention the podcast has received has pushed the entire case into the realm of popular culture. This is an important distinction to make because the question now becomes, did Best Buy make a joke about a tragedy in order to sell products, or did they make a joke about a pop culture phenomenon? I think the person behind the Best Buy social media ultimately helped Best Buy’s reputation. The apology leaves Best Buy in a position they can defend, yet the controversy created only enhanced their brand presence overall.
The benefits of corporate blogging definitely outweigh the risks, but only for the corporation. For the individual employee, the opposite is true. While they may be fairly financially compensated for their work, there is always the risk that something they post will either offend the company’s customer base, or the company itself. While it is unclear from the Best Buy example above, it is almost certain that the employee who wrote the offending tweet will be punished while the company is almost certain to prosper.
Another important issue is whether or not employers should be able to access and make decisions based upon an employees social media presence. The answer really depends upon the individual. The web offers plenty of advice on how to navigate this terrain, yet the answers seem unsettling. Advice such as “remove every potentially-inappropriate post/picture” and to “keep language and grammar in mind,”(Driscoll) seems to be at odds with an individual’s right to freely and openly communicate. While self-censorship is an important and integral part of interacting with society, it can be taken too far. At a certain point, an individual loses their individuality if they are more concerned with continued employment than speaking their mind. “A public profile is a vehicle for casually interacting with others in an informal setting, on personal free time. When companies use these profiles to find not only a professional but also an ideological match for a job, they’re misleading themselves and building ill will with talented prospective employees, who might decline to apply for a job for fear a comment about China on their blogs makes them persona non grata”(Fish). While keeping individual social media outlets private seems like good, practical advice, it kind of defeats the purpose of “social” media. Allowing employers to dictate what you do and don’t post online allows them to, in effect, shape the internet itself. Is this something that we want to happen?
Driscoll, Emily. “What Your Social Media Reputation Says to Employers.” Fox Business. 3 June 2013. Web. 29 Aug. 2014. <http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/06/03/what-your-social-media-reputation-says-to-employers/>.
Fish, Greg. “Employers, Get Outta My Facebook.” Business Week. Bloomsburg, 20 Mar. 2008. Web. 28 Aug. 2014. <http://www.businessweek.com/debateroom/archives/2010/12/employers_get_outta_my_facebook.html>.
Warren, Christina. “10 People Who Lost Jobs Over Social Media Mistakes.” Mashable. 16 June 2011. Web. 29 Aug. 2014. <http://mashable.com/2011/06/16/weinergate-social-media-job-loss/>.