Can your business be put out of business by a social media fail?

Written: 23-Oct-2013 | | Filed under: Social Media

OK, OK, you’ve heard it a thousand times before: if you’re promoting a business on social media you have to be careful what you post and share. Because everything you do reflects back on the business. We’ve all heard many, many stories of social media fails, where a careless agency underling accidentally posts something off-color to the wrong account, or a business executive goes off on a complaining customer or whatever.

You’d think everybody would have the message by now, but NOOOOOOO. Apparently, for some folks, the urge to share everything going on inside their heads is just too strong.

We’re all supposed to know by now, too, that you shouldn’t just talk about yourself. It’s OK to brag a bit if your company’s done something really notable, of course, but you don’t want to spend all your time tooting your own horn exclusively. It’s repetitive and egotistical and, frankly, not all that interesting to anybody other than you.

But, apparently, that message hasn’t sunk in everywhere, either.

I just came across another sad story of a business completely undone — as in, put totally out of business — by a bone-headed social media fail. They pretty much broke all the rules: sharing what should have been confidential company info, bragging shamelessly about themselves all the time, forgetting their page was open to the general public to read… (sigh)

Yep, apparently a street gang in Florida set themselves up for criminal prosecution when they created their own Facebook page, including profiles that revealed both their real and “street” names.

They also posted candid pictures of the members throwing gang signs, exposing gang tattoos and dressed in their “colors” while posing with guns and drugs. They even obliged law enforcement by naming their page after their gang to remove any semblance of doubt.

Using the information they found on Facebook, investigators were able to raid the gang’s various locations, arrest the gang members, and seize most of the gang’s assets including guns, money and drugs.

Now, I hear you saying, that’s law enforcement and a gang, not a business. But — like any organized crime syndicate — gangs are a business. They make money selling products (OK, illegal products, but still, they are products), they have marketing and sales organizations (drug dealers, numbers runners, enforcers), an organizational chart, financial wizards (to launder the money)… all the things any good business would have. And the most successful gangs are very much run with the kind of organizational efficiency that would warm the cockles of any MBA’s heart.

Now, your business is likely not engaged in illegal activities nor the target of law enforcement. (At least, I hope not!) But you’ve got competitors who are gunning for you, just as much as an undercover agent might be gunning for the gang kingpin. They want to take you down just as much as the DEA wants to take down a cartel. And they’ll be just as clever and ruthless as the most extreme TV cop if they get ahold of any incriminating evidence.

Do you really want your toughest competitor to know you’re having trouble with your suppliers? Do you want potential customers to find out about problems you’re having with one of your products? Do you want the world at large to know your workers are disgruntled because company revenue is down so they’re not getting raises this year?

Of course, you’d never post that sort of stuff openly. (Right?) But it may be possible for a clever person to read between the lines and figure out all sorts of stuff about your business that you’d rather keep private.

So, maybe now is a good time to take a hard look at what’s out there on your social media pages and profiles… to review your social media policies… and to make sure your employees are trained on good social media practices and the importance of keeping company confidential information… well, confidential. It isn’t about lying, just making sure you and your workers think before you post.

As it turns out, your very business survival might depend on it.

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