This morning might be a great time for a thought exercise. I’d like you to take stock of the last two dozen items you’ve posted to social media. Not your company’s feeds, mind you, but your personal ones.
As you’re reviewing those tweets, photos, posts and everything else, I’d like you to examine them through this lens: What business contacts might have seen these posts and what business didn’t they give you as a result?
You might think it a pointless exercise to speculate about whether somebody who is in a position to give you business has removed you and your agency from consideration just because of something they saw in your personal feed. And that’s sort of the point. If such things ever do happen, you’re not likely to ever know.
I’m not talking about the insight you deliver on marketing topics, or industry news you post. I’m talking more about the personal details that, even if they don’t reflect poorly on you as an individual, could be losing you business. Here are some examples:
Living It Up
Note that I’m writing this as the agency world is about to clog its social feeds with all sorts of content from a certain cultural festival held in Austin, TX. That’s not an accident.
It’s important to remember that as you’re taking celebrity selfies at SXSW, bragging about your yacht ride in Cannes or hitting that exclusive NY club with sales reps after hours, your posts might be reaching that procurement guy you met a few years ago at a conference. You know, that guy you now negotiate your agency’s fees with. He might be looking at these posts and wondering how much of his organization’s money is being used to fund these little junkets. But even if he’s not overtly confronting you about it, he’s mentally taking you down a few pegs or crossing you off the consideration list for a big project.
Clients also tend to have corporate ethics policies that might not jive with your corporate-funded celebrations, and they’re wondering why you’re being photographed getting bottle service at 3AM when they had to send back the $40 bottle of wine you sent them at the holidays last year.
Having been dragged into many a political discussion in my time, I understand that passions can run deep. It’s part of our nature to want to debate political topics and get others to consider points of view other than their own. There are a few problems with that. One is that for every person who will debate you, there are many more who keep their opinions to themselves as they silently disagree with your point of view. Another is that political beliefs are increasingly likely to be so crystallized that no debate is going to change anyone’s mind.
You might like to think that most people can separate their political leanings from their business ones, and that may be true. But people like to work with other people they identify with, and it’s possible that, as defensible as your position on economic inequality might be, someone out there is deciding not to send you that RFP because of it.
Narcissism/First World Problems
The histrionics after the Starbucks barista got your name wrong? The endless string of selfies as you’re about to get drinks after work? The rant about the BMW dealer who tried to get you to take delivery on an M5 with the wrong color interior? Sometimes, these things make people wonder how you’re going to take criticism, or how you’ll react when confronted by a serious challenge. And it might cause them to have doubts.
Incorrect Grammar and Spelling
People have all sorts of pet peeves. In a world where your resume can be thrown in the trash because of a typo, think about what happens if you’re consistently misspelling things in your posts, or you keep forgetting the difference between plural and possessive. The occasional slip-up is probably understood, but it would be easy for someone to get the wrong idea about the quality of your work product from a string of consistent errors.
I’m not suggesting that everyone immediately sanitize their social media feeds. Personally, I’m an open book and I prefer that people get to know me through my posts on Facebook and LinkedIn. But I would suggest that everybody be mindful of who is in their social circles and remember that there may be people who you may have forgotten about, or you don’t realize are privy to your personal details. When those people have to come up with a list of agency people they need to call in to pitch their next piece of business, are you being left off because of something preventable?
Tom Hespos is the Founder and Chief Media Officer of Underscore, an integrated media agency focusing on health and healthy brands. You can follow him on Twitter at @THespos1. Just don’t expect any political tweets.