During the last week, it’s been impossible to avoid the press coverage of Alexander Carter-Silk, the 57-year-old solicitor who messaged a Barrister 30 years his junior on LinkedIn commenting that her profile picture was “stunning”, and the subsequent debate over its appropriateness.
It’s been widely discussed in the media and online; with both parties being subject to their old social media posts being exposed by the press, demonstrating how one social media slip-up can lead to disastrous consequences, and the importance of safeguarding your social media accounts.
LinkedIn sexism row
Charlotte Proudman, a 27-year-old Barrister has been widely criticised for openly shaming Carter-Silk on her Twitter account following his message to her, which she felt was “sexist” and “misogynist”.
Both Proudman and Carter-Silk have had their professional and personal reputations turned upside down. As a result of Proudman’s tweet, her entire social media history has been scoured and the press have covered her difficult relationship with her grandmother – with her own auntie even commenting on the feud.
Carter-Silk was also heavily criticised for sending the LinkedIn message in the first place, which was ill-advised to send on a professional account. LinkedIn is a professional social media network – and with his company plastered all over his profile, it wasn’t the right environment for him to send such a personal message. Not only was he risking his own professional image, but he was putting his company’s reputation at risk too. Perhaps if Carter-Silk had sent the message on Facebook, he may not have seen such a backlash.
Social media best practice
There are always risks attached to what you post on social media as whatever you post is public and can be quickly picked up by other users and re-shared. Here, we consider best practice for using your social media accounts to avoid the pitfalls:
- Only use LinkedIn for professional purposes: This may be a social media site, but it’s not for socialising with friends. Your connections are for business and career purposes only, something which is not worth risking for a cheeky quip or joke – as proven by the above case. The name of your current employer is often a part of your LinkedIn profile, so you’re representing them too and shouldn’t risk their reputation.
- Manage the settings on your social media accounts: There are plenty of ways to manage settings on most social media sites so that you’re keeping essential information private and not opening yourself up to risk. On all of your social media profiles, take a look at the privacy settings and make sure you’re safeguarding your information. If Proudman and Carter-Silk had done the same, they wouldn’t have exposed themselves to the press investigating and publishing their social media history.
- Treat online conversations the same as offline conversations: Even private messages can be made public. Regardless of your privacy settings, people may still see your post on a wide scale. If you’re thinking of writing a post, consider whether you would be able to say it in front of the whole office at work. And if you’re messaging someone directly, consider whether it would work well in front of that person and all of their friends.
- Be careful when using people’s personal information: Companies don’t like to be associated with personal issues and they can breach some website regulations. If you name people and companies on social media, they’ll be picked up if they’re prominent enough. There’s a fine line between discussion and trolling.
- Keep your work email for professional purposes only: Try to keep your personal and professional lives as separate as possible – only use your work email address for work purposes. If information is leaked, much like the Ashley Madison hack, then companies’ reputations can be affected. LinkedIn is for work purposes, but you should still use your personal email.
- Only accept people you know: Take caution when accepting friends, followers and connections. Remember what platform you are on, which will have slightly different barriers, but if you don’t know someone you should probably avoid connecting with them.
For companies, employees who use social media also need to be monitored. If the company is detailed in someone’s social media account, then that employee is representing the company’s reputation. You must keep a close eye on online comments and ensure people maintain the standards set by the business. Ensure clear guidelines are set, and that training is provided where necessary to make sure people understand the pitfalls of social media use.
Igniyte works to help businesses present themselves effectively online and manage their online reputation. For more information on how Igniyte can help you or your company, please contact Caroline Skipsey on tel: +44 (0) 203 542 8689 or email [email protected] in confidence.