By Damon Wright
Executive Director, Investor Relations, Finance, Ingram Micro
Poke, Tag, Tweet, Like, Follow, Friend… While these words may bring back fond childhood memories of chasing classmates around the playground or a first innocent crush, today they are mainstream terminology thanks to social media.
While many people are connecting with friends and family via social media, these online sites have also become an integral part of the outreach and branding efforts by corporations across the globe and social media promises to continue to burrow its way into additional aspects of our personal lives and business careers.
Ingram Micro has embraced social media as a means of communicating with associates, partners and customers and utilizes sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The platform provides a new way to instantly communicate with individuals and large groups, but it is important to remember that unlike the antics of our childhood days, when it comes to using social media, there are no “do-overs.”
The learning curve for understanding the potential power of any new media or communication methodology can be steep and it is important to recognize the broad reach and permanence of a simple tweet, blog entry, YouTube video or Facebook post, particularly where it concerns your job. While it may be a stretch to anoint email as an early predecessor to the current social media sensation, each of us can recall at least one time when we hit “send” prior to fully vetting an email, replied to “all” by mistake, or shot back a terse response in the heat of the moment that became an instant regret. While definitely embarrassing, the risk of such hasty action via email is relatively controllable, as the recipients are generally known and limited. However, the permanence of the message remains a reality that can be forwarded at the whim of any recipient. And even though emails are only sent to a select group, they are not private; they are discoverable and in most companies, accessible by HR and senior executives.
Communication via social media ups the stakes exponentially. Once posted, the message is immediately alive on the Internet and in the public domain.
Depending on the content, communication via social media can also make its way into more traditional media outlets, as we are reminded daily when the latest misstep by a celebrity or politician spreads like a wind fed wildfire across the Internet.
Public personalities are not the only individuals at risk and anyone communicating via social media is fully responsible for their own actions. The business community was recently reminded of this as the Wall Street Journal covered the termination of the CFO of a publicly traded retail company for his use of social media. While it may be easy to dismiss his poor judgment of divulging Board conversations and other non-public, potentially material information as something none of us would ever do, this tale serves as an important reminder of the dos and don’ts of social media, particularly when it concerns your job.
If you are a business, no matter what size, put a social media policy in place to help guide your employees and protect yourself. If you are an employee, take the time to understand the boundaries of what is permissible under your company’s social media policy. And always remember that unlike the playful games of our childhood, there are no “do-overs.”