How social media can help change your career

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Clay Adams | April 23rd, 2014

Rarely does a week (day?) go by without someone, somewhere doing something stupid on social media.

Why?

What is it that seems to take seemingly well adjusted, successful (well, at least until they did what they did) and creative individuals to do something that is so out of touch with just about every fabric of judgement, common sense and – in some cases – human dignity?

Case in point (pardon any implied pun) was the bizarre tweet by a US Airways employee this past week.

Now in case you missed it, then you are out of luck – at least here. The image is truly quite bizarre and absolutely pornographic. You might even say it is a reminiscent of that 70s skin flick Debbie Does Dallas, except this time she went via Fort Worth with a change of planes in Salt Lake City.

While US Airways hastily removed the offensive tweet – and it was offensive, even to me which probably says a lot (ask those who know me) – it is still lurking out there in internet land somewhere. After all, you can find just about anything on the internet if you look hard enough.

For example, did you know that wearing headphones for an hour will increase bacteria in your ear by 70 percent? That a duck’s quack doesn’t echo? Or that 50 percent of the world’s population have never made or received a phone call (although their lack of connectivity is more than compensated for by my teenage daughter and her friends, I’m sure).

Don’t be dumb

The key lesson here continues to be not to dumb things online. Actually, it is good not to dumb things period but make absolutely sure that when you do, you don’t share them online.

One of the challenges of social media is trying to stand out from the online clutter. As a medium, it is like advertising. We are bombarded with countless information daily or, to be exact, 295 exabytes (29,500,000,000,000,000,000,000) of data. Told you anything can be found on the internet.

To stand apart from the noise, you need to be different…special…unique. Not dumb. Recent examples of less-than-clever tweets are Campbell’s Spaghetti O’s salute to those who died at Pearl Harbour (because we all think of canned pasta when honoring the war dead); the Chrysler employee who tweeted “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to (expletive deleted) drive.”;  or Home Depot whose “Spot the difference” tweet led to  international condemnation.

And let’s not just blame Twitter for such gaffes. Take a look at the bizarre baggage handling video of two Air Canada employees posted this past week on You Tube; or the newspaper ad promotion by Tumbledown Trails Golf Course in Wisconsin on the anniversary of 9/11. Who said you need online tools to make a fool of yourself?

Whether these tweets and campaigns were deliberate, malicious, mistakes or just plain dumb, all have something in common – those involved were fired. Not quite the career change they expected.

We have policies for a reason

Good corporate organizations have policies in place to guide employees in using social media wisely. VCH has one and, if you haven’t already, at least look at it. Pleading ignorance is no excuse for, well, ignorance.

The message here is simple. Think…think again…pause…then think again. Then, if all else is fine, go for it. The internet might be forgiving, but it is also forever.

About the Author

Clay Adams
email iconClay.Adams@vch.ca  

Clay Adams is vice president of Communications and Public Affairs and has extensive experience in strategic communications and planning, media relations, issues management and stakeholder communications in Australia and Canada. Clay writes on communication related topics with a wry humorous style and has an interest in discussion about how we want to be understood by others. View all the posts by Clay.

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4 comments on “How social media can help change your career

  • Public Health Nurse says:

    I was recently in a situation where I was able to use social media to correct a dumb comment made by someone on Facebook. A woman posted, “I’ve finally been well enough to get my flu shot and guess what – It gave me the flu!” This was a woman who makes numerous posts and could potentially be spreading her incorrect notion to many people. Since immunization and communicable disease are actually my fields of practice, I had to say something!
    I posted that flu shots (most vaccines, actually) take about 2 weeks to give full protection, so if someone truly gets INFLUENZA (not just a cold or another virus going around)following a flu shot, they were either incubating it already, or they came in contact with it before the vaccine could fully protect. Besides, feeling, mild,”flu-like” symptoms following a flu shot are actually pretty common, and usually last about a day or so.
    After reading my comment, the woman retracted her comment and said that what she had been experiencing was just the mild flu-like symptoms.

  • Jillian says:

    On this topic of social media,

    a reminder of the policy restriciting use of personal devices during work hours might help.

    I see staff everywhere moving from one work station/area to another, in the elevators, washrooms, walking along corridors, texting while with patients or carrying their phones on their person. Now I now the hospital has a zillion phones and overhead paging so I am not sure why a personal phone is needed unless it is on break or lunch hour.

    Also a reminder to staff that using cell phones while driving (on VCH property) is still illegal. I know we have and emerg. on site but I know no one wants to end up there. I almost got hit pulling out of the parkade by someone coming in the wrong way while checking messages!

  • Anon says:

    Clay, you state there is a policy but there is no link (so not like you!)
    I would be interested in reading it.
    Social media is very good for some things but I am always amazed (and, at times, horrified) by what people will post.

    • Clay Adams says:

      Sorry Anon, you are correct to point out my tardiness in not including a link to the VCH Social Media Policy. You can certainly read it and find our more about it here.

      And further to your comment about the things people do online, it is even more extraordinary to think that experienced folks who should know better just fail to see where an online campaign might go wrong. In case you missed it, take a look at the recent New York Police Department social media strategy to encourage people to share their own pictures of NYPD officers as a means of engaging the community. Talk about going off the rails in a hurry. On the other hand, credit to them for creating something that went viral so quickly as other parts of the US followed suit with their own “love your local police” online campaigns.

      Oh dear.

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