Career-limiting moves in social media

3 06 2012

We all know (or hopefully we know by now) about the dangers of posting inappropriate material on social media. Drunken pictures of yourself partying when you are off work sick. Abusive rants about coworkers, clients and bosses. Confidential work information. Plans to apply for other jobs or debriefs on interviews attended. Not good career moves.

Some high achievers take it to the next level however. Herewith, a celebration of the high points of career-limiting moves in social media.

Former American Airlines Employee Gailen David posted a series of videos on his blog mocking his (at the time, current) employer and in particular executives. After a disciplinary process, American Airlines terminated his employment. His blog seems to indicate that he saw himself in some sort of whistle-blowing role, saving the airline from its executives. Unsurprisingly, they saw it differently and commenced court proceedings against him for a number of issues including breach of their trademark. The latest can be found at his blog The Sky Steward. One wonders if, had he done it anonymously and without naming specific airlines, he could have been an internet comedic sensation and indeed found a new career for himself.

Rhode Island Prison Guard Matthew Lacroix created a Facebook page in his boss’ name. And you know that can’t be a good thing. As anyone who has watched CSI or any other crime show can predict, the IP address used to create the profile was quickly tracked back and once the nice people whose internet had been used to create the profile mentioned that coincidentally there was in fact a prison guard living next door….well it didn’t take long for the dots to be connected. Can’t imagine relations between Lacroix and his boss were any improved by the incident, and in fact, he was arrested. (No news on his fate as yet)

Earlier this year, a political staffer in Alberta Canada resigned after a tweeting a personal comment about an electoral opponent of her employer. The tweet in question read:

“If @ElectDanielle likes young and growing families so much, why doesn’t she have children of her own? #wrp family pack = insincere”

Now you probably know where this is going. “ElectDanielle” is in fact Danielle Smith, leader of the Alberta Wildrose party, and she revealed that she and her husband had struggled with infertility and had accepted that they were not going to be able to have children. The political staffer had gone too far and brought personal information into the public and political domain. And from a political standpoint, may have attracted a sympathy vote for her opponent. The staffer’s employer rapidly released a statement apologising and announcing that the staffer in question had resigned and was sorry for her actions. Which her tweet followers could tell from the follow-up tweet:

“Fine. I apologize”

And this one is quite stunning. A first year graduate is suing his former employer “big-law” firm Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman – for $77m dollars severance claiming he was fired because he exhibited intelligence and creativity. Now, I don’t know the merit of the case – but he must be very hopeful of the large settlement because now that there is so much all over the internet about him, he may find it difficult to get another job in the industry.

And finally – show and tell time! Even quitting via social media can be a career-limiting move. I think of this one as Jenny vs Spencer: no-one wins.


Want more? Have a look at page 2.1.7 onwards in this document, Death by Facebook, for some more salient lessons on how to avoid career-limiting social media moves, or What’s your Social Media Policy? for more ideas on what to avoid.





When sources become journalists…..

13 02 2012

photo credit: I don't know, maybe

If the saying used to be “everyone’s a comedian”, now it should be “everyone’s a journalist”. Social media is changing the way we source news, the way news sources information, and the ease with which information is publicised.

A March 2010 survey on where people got at least some of their news information from revealed that 61% got it from social media. 61%! And it’s probably more now.

Now the statistics sceptic in me thinks – sure, but they probably promoted the survey online and hence got a biased sample. And that may be the case, but the fact that people are looking to social media for news items is interesting in itself.

The stats from the survey read:

  • social media – 61%
  • radio – 54%
  • newspapers – 50%
  • (no stats on TV news here though.)

Almost 92% said they got their information from more than one source. Not really surprising when I think of my own Twitter and Facebook habits, where a large number of sites or feeds I am following are in fact news media, magazines, journalists and publicists. And the occasional friend!

The roles and dominance of “old media” and “new media” seemed to have been changing quite significantly over the past couple of years. I first noticed this in 2010 when the South Australian Government announced they were going to close The Parks Community Centre. A lobby group was rapidly set up on Facebook and gathered thousands of members (eventually topping out at over 6,800). The interesting thing about this – other than the whole facilitation of social organising, which will probably form the basis of another posting later on – was that the traditional media sources seemed to be subscribing to the Facebook group and gaining their information from the Facebook site. New media was driving and providing content for new media. Eventually a couple of local newspapers got involved in organising rallies, thereby, one could say “creating” the news, but the Facebook group very much led the way, and, at the same time, made a minor local celebrity of the unsuspecting mum who had set up the group in the first place.

So then we have the recent article about BBC News, CNN and Sky News having difficulty setting guidelines for journalists about where to send information first – to subscribers or on Twitter. One presumes they may have a financial interest in getting it to subscribers first, but also, many news tweets are actually pointers back to a website, so the link needs to be set up before it can be tweeted. For non-linked tweets though, those that just provide information…..well, they need to remember they have competition out there and time is of the essence. Not only can you be scooped by a rival broadcaster, you can be scooped by the punters as well! The only difference is, journalists need to stop and make sure it is correct information. We punters are allowed (it seems) to be amateurs at the fact-checking function.

Yes indeed, it is not only journalists that are tweeting news, we punters are joining in. I recently posted about American Airlines and Weber Shandwick’s case study of how they managed social media and old media during a hijacking hoax at New York’s JFK Airport. The major sources of information were a couple of passengers tweeting from inside the plane in its ‘hijack quarantine”. Journalists then started contacting these tweeting passengers and asking for information beyond what the company was providing (presumably on the advice of police and security). So you could follow the journalists, or you could follow the passengers themselves – or both.

And so we come to today’s sad news about the death of Whitney Houston. And again it turns out that news of her death was tweeted 42 minutes prior to the official confirmation by Aja Dior M., who claimed that her aunt Tiffany worked for Whitney and had “just found [her] dead in the tub” – only 20 minutes after the official time of death (3.55pm). The news was again tweeted 27 minutes prior to the official spokesperson by “Big Chorizo” who claimed unnamed “sources” had informed him. (Of course no-one is actually reading ALL Twitter feeds so unless you were subscribed to either of these, you probably still didn’t know unless you happened to be looking up Whitney on Twitter at the right time…)

Was this how Whitney would have wanted news of her death handled? Was Aunt Tiffany employed to release information about Whitney? Or does the contract become null and void upon the death of the celebrity? We have no way of knowing if there were confidentiality clauses in the contract between Whitney and Tiffany (although I suspect this may become the subject of a future court case). While the phone-hacking and bribing scandals currently hitting various UK newspapers are (hopefully) bringing journalists and management to account for the ethics of how they gather information (and such activities are illegal for us all), are we going to hold citizen journalists to the same standards? How?

If everyone has become a journalist of sorts, sourcing and releasing information, and we are all moving to accessing our information online….there are a whole lot of ethical questions to be sorted out. And maybe a new understanding of confidentiality and privacy.

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