How Private is Your Online Activity? A Primer for Business Owners

How Private is Your Online Activity? A Primer for Business Owners

Being a business owner means you most likely will interact with all kinds of people. As a contractor, you might land jobs in homes of a variety of people, and if you want to stay in business, you’ll welcome the diversity, so long as the checks clear. You aren’t required to agree with your customers’ political, religious or other moral stances; again, just as long as the check clears, everything should be golden.

Since you can’t set your social media settings for your business pages to private (and what would be the point of having a business page if you could), you’ve learned to put on a game face when doing business with people with whom you might not agree. Your business is open to everyone and all your business’s social media channels reflect that.

Great. Now how about YOUR social media? Is that a-okay?

So, you probably thinking, “Hey, I’ve got all my social media pages set to “private,” “friends only” or whichever setting each site uses to make sure my posts don’t become public. I’m free to say whatever I want.” And you use social media with these ideas in mind. You share your opinions of politics, religion, proposed structures being built between countries, even your opinion on how poverty and race relations should be handled. After all, you’re just talking to your friends, right?

No, you aren’t. And here are two reasons why you want to rethink that stance before your next Twitter rant:

Reason 1: Your friends dime you out.

They might not mean to, but if a friend loves what you posted about the president so much that he shared it, you’re getting a whole new audience for that post. Regardless of what you said, SOMEONE is going to be offended. And if that someone needs a contractor, you can bet it won’t be you. And there’s a chance that person will tell other like-minded people not to use your services either.

Reason 2: You dime yourself out.

Let’s say you hate asparagus. You hate it so much, you wrote an entire post railing about it. Someone comments that maybe you might like asparagus better if you cooked it differently. Your response: an expletive-heavy paragraph yelling at the person for calling you stupid, and informing the person what he can do with his advice and the asparagus. Now, you have every right to react in this manner, but if the guy you cussed at decides to exact revenge by taking a screenshot of your conversation and sharing it with his social media followers, again, you’re reaching a whole new audience, and not in a good way.

You might not know it happened at first. But eventually, your business page will start receiving complaints and low ratings. Your once five-star Facebook rating can plummet. Angry comments will appear, often with a screenshot showing what you said on your personal page.

“But… but… this was on my personal account! It’s not fair, it was never meant for everyone to read!” You exclaim.

Of course, it wasn’t – but that’s the number one lesson you need to learn about social media: Nothing is private.

Nothing.

If you send it out into the Interwebs, it’s only a matter of time before those who weren’t meant to see it will see it. No matter how tightly you lock down your social media sites.

So… what can you do?

If it’s already happened and you’re dealing with the fallout, own up to it. Own your words and apologize to those you might have offended. And don’t make it one of those weak, soft, “I’m kinda apologizing but I’m really not but I want to make it sound like I am” apologies. If you can’t mean it because you meant what you said, own up to that and be prepared to accept the consequences.

If you want to avoid such a nightmare, the best solution is to keep your opinions on hot-button topics off social media entirely. But that’s unrealistic for most. So, the best course of action is to make sure you have a well-rounded and educated opinion about the things you post. At least then if someone challenges you regarding something, you can engage with them in a non-combative way. And also, check your settings to make sure you’re set to as private as you can get on social media.

As a human being, you’re entitled to have and share your opinions. It’s also possible to gain customers from sharing your views. However, berating, insulting or otherwise engaging with your customers in a negative fashion never works out in your favor, and as a business owner, you must take special care to keep opinions that might offend or hurt your bottom line away from the public. Or if you feel it’s that important to share, be prepared to stand by your statements and accept the consequences.

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