We've all been there. You post a quick comment without thinking on Facebook. Or, you try to send a direct message with a link on Twitter and realize later it was a public tweet. Most of these mistakes are harmless and no one notices.
But here are a few examples of how social media can cause more consternation--especially when it comes to business relationships. With each story, I've also included a tip on how you can avoid making a similar faux pas.
1. Your press release mentions a partner without their approval
A press release is a brilliant social marketing move. You can craft your message, post it online using a service like PR Web, and then link to the release like crazy on Twitter and Facebook. Unless, that is, if you make a mistake. Eric Coombs, the founder of ENC Valet Parking in Sacramento, says he once created a press release that mentioned a company by name. "We provide a valet service for their events," he says. "They saw our digital press release and didn't like us mentioning there was a parking issue." Fortunately, Coombs contacted PR Web and had the press release removed. The silver lining: online press releases can be removed. And, any re-shares usually disappear after a few weeks.
2. An applet shares more than you want
Mark DeVerges, a practice leader at the executive search firm Kimmel & Associates, was looking for a magic show to entertain his kids. He found a website and used an applet called ShareThis to send the link to his wife. What he didn't realize is that the same message was copied automatically to his LinkedIn account. While it seems harmless, it was more than a little embarrassing--all 5,000 of his contacts were able to see the message and wonder what it was about and why he was sharing it with them. DeVerges says he will avoid using sharing applets like that unless he knows exactly how they work. My tip: log out of any networks you don't want accessible when browsing.
3. A team member tweets an inappropriate message
It's hard to control everything in social media--after all, it's a wild world out there. James Partlow, a digital communications specialist in the Government Affairs & Communications Division of the Department of General Services told me about a recent snafu. During a new school construction, an associate connected with the project decided to reach out by sending a direct message to a local blogger who has about 30,000 followers. The problem: the message he sent was contrary to what the agency had just tweeted on its own and the blogger was not happy. Partlow says the agency plans to form stricter guidelines on how to disseminate their message.
4. Posting negative comments on Facebook
Facebook is a completely private and secure social network, right? Think again. An employee of a restaurant in Seattle who did not want to be named told me his story recently. He noticed his boss had come out in favor of reduced tips. The employee posted a slur on Facebook in a private comment. What he didn't realize is that comments on Facebook will appear to anyone who is friends of those involved in the discussion--in this case, that included the boss. When the boss read the comment, he promptly called the employee and fired him. A new tool called Persona would have caught the slur and suggested he delete it, sending an alert by text or email.