OK, I’ve got an age old query for you here, lovely blog readers, about the things that you upload to your social media accounts and to what degree they should be controlled.
First of all, let me give you the background. In our family, I work from home as a Freelance SEO Copywriter. I run a digital marketing and SEO consultancy with my husband who has a day job as a Marketing Manager; it would be fair to say that our household is pretty digital marketing orientated.
Unavoidably, social media is a massive part of our lives; both my husband and I have personal accounts for multiple platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest etc.) and we also both manage the social media accounts for our own companies and often some for our clients too. Believe me, that is one heck of a lot of social media to keep track of and I dread to think how many hours of our lives we have spent glued to our phones or our laptops.
Naturally, we’re both also aware of the value of a good social media policy, especially in the context of a business’s online marketing campaign. Just for the record.
Before we go any further, for those of you who don’t already know, I must just own up to the fact that I have what the Americans would call a ‘potty mouth’; basically, I swear a lot and also have a habit of voicing the inappropriate, whatever the situation that I find myself in (although not as badly as my sister). It’s not that I deliberately try to be rude or shocking, I just have different reference points to the majority of ‘polite society’. I have tried over the years to reign in my swearing but, if I’m honest, never very hard and, as such, I’ve never managed it to any significant degree, much to the chagrin of my father-in-law!
Whilst I would never dream of swearing or being inappropriate in a social media post for a client or GrowTraffic, my idiosyncratic use of the English language inevitably finds its way into my personal social media posts and my husband is quite often the recipient of this. Just to give you an example, here are my last 3 Facebook posts related to my husband;
- “I really hope, for the sake of [my Dad], that [my husband] is experiencing an autocorrect fail; just received the following text:
“Will be bfucking your dad tonight”. Oh ey?”
- “Just having a quick cuddle with [my husband], thought he was copping a feel at my left boob, turns out it was the dog! I feel slightly violated.”
- “And the final scores at the end of the night were as follows; [my friend] – drunk and in bed by 10:00 pm; [my husband] – drunk & queasy and in bed by 11:00 pm; [my other friend] – sober and in bed by 11:15 pm; Me – sober and still standing! I may be victorious, but I can’t help feeling that our days of wild partying are well and truly behind us.”
As you can see, no topic is off limits and I’ve never been afraid to share anything about my husband or our private life on any of my personal social media accounts. One might even go so far as to say that I have social media verbal diarrhoea.
And so, this weekend, there came about the conversation that has led to me writing this blog post and asking your opinion and advice.
My husband and I were talking to my Dad and sister about the incident of the autocorrect fail (example 1 above) and my husband pipes up that it had been mentioned to him that some of the posts on his Facebook wall would have broken the social media policies of some organisations. Having never heard anything about this up until now, I sat down quietly and carefully thought the problem out – no, I’m only joking – I rounded on my husband and barraged him with indignant questions until he wished he’d never opened his mouth, and then I got cross about it all and did a very good impression of my mother at her most outraged.
This was the upshot; it was thought that some of my personal social media posts, that had appeared on my husband’s Facebook wall, and that concerning my husband were inappropriate, especially because they concerned someone who is a departmental manager responsible for a largely younger (and therefore impressionable) workforce and who is expected to represent and uphold the values of the company. The suggestion was that my husband should be vetting the posts that appeared on his wall; the implication was that I should be told to moderate my posts.
Now, I get the fact that my husband is a representative of his company both off- and online – obviously I get that – but I was still a little surprised to have this argument extended beyond the realm of business to in our family, possibly in part because, in my head, I don’t yet think of myself as old enough to have such notions apply to me; I’m still 16 in my head. (Although, I also look like Audrey Hepburn in my head, so that’s not a reliable source of reasoning!)
It also made sense of my husband’s reply to the post about the cuddle and the dog – as we’ll euphemistically call it – (example 2 above); “I must write a family social media policy doc *smiley face*”, not to mention the fact that he now seems to be systematically removing the profile links on his name from any of my Facebook posts. A few days ago, I just thought this was my husband being a bit of a prude, which he can be from time to time, but now I know better.
Nevertheless, although I may now understand his motives and realise that he is acting in a manner he feels he should, that doesn’t mean that I agree with the principle behind the action.
Of course I appreciate that he’s all sensible and important and has to set an example and embody his company’s ethics…and I get that social media is now an indistinguishable part of a business’ marketing strategy and that employees will be expected to comply with their company’s social media policy…and I even know that prospective partners and customers may see the personal social media profiles of personnel and judge them…BUT I STILL FELT MAD ABOUT IT! And this is why: because there has to be a point where social media as a marketing tool ends and social media as a means of personal freedom of expression begins. Or, to put it another way, the social media policy has to draw the line somewhere.
The Social Media Trap
I don’t know whether the problem lies with social media because it has become all-encompassing, or with digital marketers because we’re more aware of social media having become all-encompassing, but I do know that there is a tendency of marketers to carefully craft every piece of content that is put out there, whereas ‘normal’ people are just able to spew out any old rubbish they want, safely ignorant of the fact that those words will then be there forever and could potentially be seen by anyone.
As a digital marketer, unlike probably the vast swathe of social media users, I am aware that my posts may be seen by my mother, my boss, my clients and even my future children and grandchildren but I am still happy to put up posts like the ones mentioned before. As I said, I have different reference points than other people and there’s nothing in any of them that I wouldn’t happily discuss in person with any of the people on my friends list. Hell, I’m not dancing naked on a table with a bottle of Bacardi! Facebook hadn’t been invented when I was doing that.
Having said that though, I do realise that, to many other people, some of my posts may seem a little bit too revealing or personal, but that’s not a risk that bothers me. I firmly believe that everyone has a right to freedom of speech and that social media is merely an extension of that right; there are many, many things said on Facebook that I wholeheartedly disagree with – Britain First being my biggest bug bear at the moment – but I will forever defend their right to express their opinions, even if they might make me feel sick.
So I believe a company should have no right to dictate to me what is and isn’t talked about on my personal social media accounts – I’ll be the judge of that! More than that, I think that my threshold for a company’s right to determine what is and isn’t on my husband’s personal social media accounts will probably be less than most corporate folk too. A company’s company’s social media campaigns are clearly a different kettle of fish, and that company absolutely has every right to dictate the content on those – and should – but not to that same absolute degree on an employee’s’ personal account. Obviously that statement has caveats and there are limits, plus there is a massive crossover between the two that further muddies the waters, but I still believe that position to be the right one.
Of course, social media is still relatively in its infancy and this entire world of social media marketing is still new; even as digital marketers, we’ve only been doing it for the last decade and we’re still learning and evolving as we go. The entire focus of social media has shifted slightly in recent years, as companies have discovered the value of using it as a marketing tool (even my toilet paper is on Facebook. It often talks less poo than Britain First!) and maybe it will continue to evolve and address this problem head on. Perhaps the line between personal and business social media will become more firmly defined as privacy settings are improved and users become more aware of their own social media legacy. Or perhaps not.
What Do You Think?
As I said at the beginning of this post, I’d genuinely like to know what your opinion is on this matter. Do you think that I need to moderate my output to ensure the people in my life can continue to comply with their employer’s social media policy or do you think that a company should have no say over the content and language used in my social media posts? Does my husband really need to write a family social media policy or should I use said document as toilet paper and then start a Facebook page for it?
I’d be really interested to know what the majority view is.
You can respond in all the usual ways; by leaving me a comment below, by leaving a comment on our Facebook Page, by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by completing the form on our Contact Page. Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing from you.