Forget about your employees, what is your digital footprint like?

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News site Business Insider has terminated its CTO, Pax Dickinson, over his abrasive and offensive Twitter posts (ranging from sexist commentary to criticizing those with low incomes).

Among his many posts, Dickinson stated “Fast food workers should go on strike against themselves to punish themselves for having skills that are only worth $7.85/hr.”

When confronted by Anil Dash, co-founder of ThinkUp, he responded “Really, dude, you know we work in the same building right? Would you like to come call me an a**** to my face tomorrow?”

Business Insider posted a statement on its website yesterday that read:

A Business Insider executive has made some comments on Twitter that do not reflect our values and have no place at our company. The executive has left the company, effective immediately.

Business Insider’s team is composed of more than 100 talented men and women of many backgrounds, and we highly value this diversity.

Dickinson’s termination brings to light the often-overlooked area of executives and managers – including HR – and their social media presence.

While the behaviour of employees and brand pages online are often reported on, HR executives may need to look at how they present themselves online or risk damaging the brand and job-seekers’ perceptions of them.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s consumer or colleague, we are all human beings and we want to know more about each other,” Simone Carroll, general manager of People & Brand at REA Group, told HRM.

Understanding the desire of candidates to become familiar with the company culture through its staff becomes all important when considering HR’s position as the face of many organizations, at least to job-seekers.

Recruitment specialists and others in the HR department are often present at interviews and inductions, becoming the first point of contact for many candidates. It stands to reason that if a candidate chooses to investigate the organization, the people they have met will be the first they search for.


Key HR take-aways

Although some executives and managers may feel they have nothing to fear due to the fact they don’t post anything rude, derogatory or otherwise objectionable,  elements of personal or family life freely visible to candidates can mar their professional image in the eyes of some candidates. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Ensure privacy settings
    One of the easiest ways to prevent candidates from viewing personal information is to ensure you have your profiles set to ‘private’. You can then choose to share some content with the public, (including candidates looking you up) while keeping most of it private.
  • Keep things separate
    If you are a person who enjoys using social media, chances are you do so across multiple platforms. Many now wish to link to one account, be it Google + or Facebook. While this shouldn’t prove too troublesome, it does extend your digital footprint. This relates to privacy settings in some ways, but also demonstrates the flaw in building one online identity, as you may overlook some profiles or content.

    Some may choose to have multiple profiles. For instance, a separate Facebook account for colleagues and candidates, and one for friends and family.
  • Don’t “overshare”
    Some HR professionals may wish to connect with candidates and employees. This is fine, and is perhaps a more secure and stable way of approaching your social media presence. In this case, it is important to be mindful of how active you are and what content you share. In the same way employees are warned they shouldn’t post about how bad their day has been, neither should you. Additionally, continual sharing of images and chain-letter type posts can create an image of social media infancy, and lower your standing among more clued-in employees.

    Additionally, frequent posting can create an image – truthful or not – that you are not working.
  • It is instant and it is permanent
    Perhaps what needs to be driven home to all social media users still is the instant and permanent nature of it. Any posts made or videos uploaded can be seen straight away. Even if deleted, a record of them still exists and chances are someone saw it before you pressed delete. It is a rule that seems obvious, but many people break.

    "What happens in Vegas stays on YouTube," Frits van Paasschen, CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, told The BBC.


Using social media to connect to candidates and employees can be a great tactic. However, executives must be mindful of their online presence at all times, as they are a permanent brand ambassador.

Dickinson appears to understand his mistake in this area. “Still have much love for everyone at @businessinsider. Best & smartest people I ever worked with. Don't hold me against them,” he tweeted following his termination, although his previous tweet quipped: “I gained 850 twitter followers and +7 @klout in less than 24 hours. Now offering social media consulting services.”



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