My Tweets Are My Own Thoughts

If you visit my Twitter profile, you’ll notice that the title of this blog is the beginning of the longest disclaimer Twitter allows me to post to my bio:

“My tweets are my own thoughts and do not reflect the official positions of my employer.”

True, the disclaimer takes up most of the space I could otherwise use to tell you all the clichè one-word keywords that most people who follow me already know describe me (nature lover, Steelers fan, vegetarian, woodworker, aspiring Buddhist, frequently confused, etc.) but it’s my responsibility to shadow my personal timeline under that umbrella. As one of the few people authorized to manage and post to my organization’s social media channels, I need to establish a clear distance between my personal profiles and those I am professionally accountable for.

There have been countless examples of why this practice is now all but dictated in most corporate social media polices, but none so recently outrageous as that which spawned the hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet. I’ll let you read the story for yourself if you haven’t already, but I’m not writing this blog to judge the level of Justine Sacco’s common sense or speculate on her personal or political views. If you want to read that kind of commentary, just search for “Justine Sacco” on Twitter. I’m writing this piece to express my complete befuddlement over the lack of self awareness and personal accountability that too many social media administrators continue to display, years after it has become blatantly apparent that these values are requirements of the job.

The twitter profile in question was deleted shortly after the individual in question landed from her cross-ocean flight, presumably after she discovered that the entire blogosphere was attacking her for the tweet she’d posted before boarding. You’ll notice from screenshots of her pre-deleted profile, however, that her bio did not include any personal disclaimers taking responsibility for her words. Worse, what she did include explicitly named her organization and her role there, making it appear as though her profile could be professionally related to her firm. I’m not saying that doing so would have saved her job; if I ever posted something half as inflammatory as “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” I would expect to return to unemployment. Still, a disclaimer was a professional obligation.

I don’t want to comment on whether this phenomena is generational, or whether the instant gratification of sharing our spontaneous thoughts with the world is making us all less concerned with the impact they have on others. I only know that it wasn’t very long ago that the only people authorized to speak on behalf of an organization were its financial stakeholders, or at the very least, those who had completed formal media training to gain an understanding of the consequences of their words and actions. In too many organizations today, any prolific social media user with a following and a perception of “getting it” can be named a company administrator (although what’s most bizarre to me about the Justine Sacco event is that in an organization of her size, that’s almost never the case.)

The sense of responsibility I carry as a social media admin extends beyond the limits of my organization’s social media policies. To say that I think before I post is a massive understatement; I check my profile multiple times before posting to ensure that I am choosing the correct one for my statement, especially on a mobile device, which makes the occasional “oops” remarkably achievable. Although my company does not explicitly recommend that I do this, I do censor my online remarks in an attempt to keep my comments of a professional, albeit casual nature. Like many others, I post about sports, I tweet photos of my cats that no one cares about except me, and I do rant or complain occasionally on my personal profiles (generally about marketing campaigns I find to be annoying,) but I am cognizant that my profile is only a short click away from that of my company’s. Disclaimer or not, my words may have either a positive or a negative impact on someone’s perception of my organization.

If that responsibility feels too constrictive, I can empathize, but choose a line of work that doesn’t involve being a social media administrator. There are far more reputations than your own at stake.


3 thoughts on “My Tweets Are My Own Thoughts

  1. Very well stated. I had read nothing of Justine Sacco’s Twitter Nightmare until this post.

    #Concerning
    #Racist and pretty much generally inappropriate all round – some of the previous Tweets were eye opening too.

    I’m not sure how I feel about employers generally looking into their employees social networking, but I have to say I can understand why. These platforms give an indication of someones moral and principle base – all round character evaluation if you will. Under no circumstances would I ever employ someone who makes statements like that.

    I have had to block posts or shares from people on Facebook that I have known for over 20 years and often reflect on them thinking ‘and you think you know a person’.

    #FoodForThought

    1. I feel the same unease regarding employers digging too deep into their employees’ social networking sites, and as a policy, my company makes it very clear that employees’ participation in the company profiles is completely voluntary. We do not judge anyone negatively who chooses not to connect their personal profiles to those of their employer, because some people desire a very solid boundary between their professional and personal lives. It’s also easy to judge a person based on an errant online comment, while lacking the context behind it and in many cases, real knowledge of the person’s character, values and life history. Daniel Schwartz made a very insightful commentary on his blog regarding the mob mentality that emerged following this case. Here’s a link to his post:

      http://www.ctemploymentlawblog.com/2013/12/articles/offensive-tweets-and-twitter-justice-the-tale-of-justine-sacco-for-employers/

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