We all behave like idiots at times. It’s been that way since the dawn of civilization. The one saving grace has always been that only a privileged few ever got to see us say or do dumb things. Until now.
What you say and do in the privacy of your own home is your own business. But what you post on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook is not only read by hundreds, thousands, even millions of people, it’ll be there until the end of time.
Look at it this way. Everything you do on the Internet is like a tattoo you get late at night that can never, ever be erased. The truth is this. Anyone considering hiring or doing business with you -- not just today but for the rest of your life -- will Google you and check out your social media presence. Which means lots and lots of you are doing some serious damage to your careers, your business, and yes, to your personal brands.
Here are ways you could be making an idiot of yourself, shooting yourself in the foot, making yourself unemployable, or otherwise damaging your reputation with social networks.
I’ve got a wonderful life. Happily Married Mommy to Two Wonderful Kids. Living a Charmed Life With My Beautiful Wife. Really? That’s your Twitter profile? Ever watch Wheel of Fortune? Everyone’s got the most amazing husband. Everyone’s wife is drop dead gorgeous. Everyone’s children are so talented. Really? What are the odds? Here’s the thing. Nobody cares and you lose all credibility by putting it in your profile.
Look at me -- I’ve got a degree. I don’t know when this practice started but now, everyone’s listing their academic degrees and all sorts of obscure certifications next to their name on LinkedIn and other profiles. MBA, MA, PE, PMP, CPCC, MPS, HCS, M. Ed., some titles go on for days. It’s trite, silly, and you may as well just say, “Hi, I’m Jay Jones and the best thing I’ve got going for me is some dumb degree I got twenty years ago that about a billion other people have.”
It’s on Facebook so it’s safe and confidential. Would you waltz into an important job interview and just lay out a bunch of compromising pictures on the table? Would you talk about your political leanings, your religious beliefs, and what really went down at that Mardi Gras party last weekend? Well, if it’s on Facebook, all it takes is one little security lapse and a Google search algorithm to crawl along and, voila, it’s forever discoverable.
I’m a CEO. These days, anyone with a Twitter account and an IP address is a CEO. Let me explain something. CEO is a title, a legal title that refers to the chief executive officer of a real corporation. You know, a place where people work and make money. If you’ve got a small business, a sole proprietorship, or an LLC, you can call yourself whatever you want, but you’re not a CEO.
I’m so proud of what I’m working on; I’m going to share it with all my competitors. As far back as I can remember, executives, entrepreneurs, and leaders have been blabbing things they shouldn’t to the media and immortalizing embarrassing statements in emails that always seem to find their way into a courtroom. Now, top executives are destroying their careers by tipping off competitors about their strategies on LinkedIn. According to a Forrester Research survey, 82% of 150 companies were monitoring social media primarily for competitive intelligence. Now that’s smart.
I ask strangers for favors. Would you walk up to a complete stranger on the street and ask them to do you favor? No, it isn’t an emergency; just some dumb thing you want them to do. Of course not. Well, then why am I now getting weekly, almost daily requests from people I don’t even know to endorse their skills on LinkedIn, write a blurb for their book cover, and who knows what else for absolutely no reason?
I’m a cute cartoon character. If you want to have a little fun and make your online avatar a caricature of yourself or a cartoon character, be my guest. I guess most hiring managers and potential customers have a sense of humor and wouldn’t think you don’t take your job or your business seriously. You never know. But a pic of you and your spouse or your kid is where I draw the line. As a personal avatar, it’s just creepy.
I can quote famous people. You know all those fluffy inspirational quotes people spew out day and night like chronic Internet rashes you can never get rid of? Well, here’s an idea. If everyone didn’t waste so much time digging around for quotes to share with everyone else, they might actually spend a little quality time doing some critical thinking, some real feeling, and, oh, I don’t know, maybe even coming up with something of their own worth saying or even quoting.
Look. I know you want to have a great online presence. We all do. But trust me when I tell you that, when it comes to marketing yourself, less is more. Keep it simple. Think quality, not quantity. And think before you post. Better still; just think. Period.
This column originally appeared on Inc.com.
Steve Tobak is a management consultant, former senior executive, columnist and author of the upcoming book, “Real Leaders Don’t Follow." Tobak runs Silicon Valley-based Invisor Consulting where he advises executives and business leaders on strategic matters. Contact Tobak.