Monday, April 07, 2014

Online reputation really matters for sales people

I found, through an email this Monday morning, a post from a marketing consultant, Sam Richter, with the captivating title, “Is Facebook destroying your business opportunities?”, link here. He refers to his work as the "Know More Blog", which reminds me of Farmers Insurance, "The more you know, the better you're prepared for what's ahead".  
It’s pretty obvious that the concern isn’t related just to Facebook.  In earlier days, it was Myspace (as on Dr. Phil’s “Internet Mistakes” (TV blog, Jan. 15, 2008) or just plain personal sites (like with the fictitious screenplay I had posted on my own and that caused a ruckus when I was substitute teaching – see July 27, 2007 on this blog).  Richter focuses on the belief that privacy settings on Facebook really keep things private, which we know they don’t (people repeat things, just like they did in the good old days before the Internet).   YouTube videos obviously fit into the discussion.

Richter’s concerns are specific for people in sales, who have to be concerned about driving away business opportunities (all the more so when they are business owners instead of employees).  One woman lost an executive job opportunity with a small company because of a post about her husband’s medical problems, apparently to a friends-only profile.  But the new employers seems to have passed her over because of its fear of medical claims (wouldn’t Obamacare take care of that?)  Another person lost an issue over a partisan political issue (yes, Republicans and Democrats).  If you work or sell on K Street, that could matter. To a techie and individual contributor like me, such behavior by employers sounds despicable.

You have to know your audience, and see who has a stake in you.  I see young actors and singers making energetic and perhaps satirical videos or whole web series that are double-edged, and these works make a wonderful impression with the right audience.  But, in show business, young artists have to wonder what context agents will perceive when they find their videos online.  It seems like context is everything.  You have to pay attention to whether your visitors will find other materials that place your edgy context in the right "true" light.

A number of years ago, pundits were talking about “employee blogging policies”, and concerns that unsupervised public broadcast of personal opinions, at least from managerial or underwriting employees, could cause disruptions in the workplace.  Social media, with the concept of whitelisting and audience-targeting, pretty much covered up the issue.  I’ve explained elsewhere how this can become a “conflict of interest” problem, link

Social media have made sure that it is no longer possible to lead a double life, with two quasi-public personas.  The days of "don't ask, don't tell" and the mentality that justified it are clearly over. 
Even in personal interactions we have to think about context.  About a year ago a young bartender said something when serving me that might have been offensive out of context.  I knew the person and what he really meant, so I wasn’t disturbed.  But some people might have been.  


Unknown said...

Your thoughts are right on, Bill. You just have to always ask yourself before you hit send, post, comment, Tweet, etc.: "Would I be embarrassed if what I'm about to say shows up on the front page of tomorrow's newspaper?" (Or another way to think about it: "what would my grandmother think if she saw this?"). Nothing is private, and anything in digital format could be archived, and made searchable, theoretically forever.

Bill Boushka said...

Since I am "retired" I have a little more leeway than some people. I do wonder if my provocative "political" Internet presence denied some job opportunities ten years ago, but it's hard to say, as there could have been other explanations. This blog (July 27, 2007) gives a detailed account of how my presence affected substitute teaching. Others do not always relate to one's content in the proper context when they find it on a search engine or it is spread to them by others. Misunderstanding of context was quite significant in the substitute teaching fiasco in 2005.