Daemon Digital

attention businesses – be careful what you wish for

Posted on 06. Apr, 2010 by in Social Media


The news of a service released by Teneros in the US last week has driven new demand into the need to manage one’s online reputation rigorously.

The service makes it easier for companies to keep an eye on their employees’ social media activities on Facebook and Twitter (soon be rolled out to many more social networking sites) at a fee of between $2 and $8 per employee according to the NY Times – http://nyti.ms/coe28T

We already knew that 45% of hiring managers looked through Facebook or Linked-in profiles of applicants and that 75% of them had made the decision not to hire that person based on something they had seen in the applicant’s profile. I know in previous roles as a hiring manager, I have done this myself. We also know that 85% of hiring managers have been influenced positively by social networking profiles – again guilty as charged.

Online reputation is extremely important

But now that you have that job, you are still not out of harms way, and I think this is a great shame. Although ultimately this was an inevitable outcome, we all must now be on the offensive to ensure that our professional lives are not compromised.

So how far do we go? Do we hide our religious, sexual orientation, age and marital status information? We don’t include these things on a CV, and it’s illegal to be asked those questions in an interview. Yet companies have the legal right to monitor what someone does in their private lives online without asking or disclosing their policy.

Privacy died long ago, and we all knew that when we signed up for these services. What started off as a good and positive service, however, can now be used for evil.

For example a picture of an employee shooting a Tequila Slammer may be OK to you or me, but to a reformed alcoholic or non drinker this picture may be unacceptable and create prejudice.

At this stage there is no way or precedent an employee can be fired for online photos or other content unless of course it slanderous to their employer (though I will bet a pretty penny that we see a case like this in front of the courts before year’s end); however these incidents may seriously impact someone’s progress, pay and happiness at work and eventually force the employee to leave.

It’s not just what you may write, but a picture you may be tagged in, or an article you’ve posted being shared, or something someone else posts on your wall.

In the social landscape, very little is private and therefore there must be a duty of disclosure for organisations that employee these services.

So what are the some of the potential ramifications of this service?

On one extreme, companies that employ this service may start to suffer from depleted talent pools – some of the most talented, original, creative, intelligent, spirited, gifted, inspirational people are on Facebook, and they may even be skulling a beer on a late night dance floor. If this or anything else social that’s deemed anti-social is used against an employee, these companies will start to see a wave of potential and current employees flood away. In addition these companies will become instant enemies of the very social communities they monitor.

On the other extreme, Facebook and other social networking sites may start to lose relevance, as users make the decision to focus on career and put less content out for public and therefore professional scrutiny.

Companies within a competitive set may be defined by their social monitoring policy; the only difference between working at Nike and Reebok as an example may be how they monitor social activities of their employees, taking away from the point of difference in employment atmospheres that these same executives have worked so hard to create.

My vote is option 1 is far more likely than option 2, the masses are there and will speak with their feet. A company that wants to know everything they can about their employees needs to be careful about they wish for. I urge all companies to think very carefully about using these services and investors to consider where they put their money, as without people, you have no product – nor profit.

Managing your online profile and reputation is key and will only gain more importance if this service does gain momentum. As will branding to current and future employees, which ever side of the monitoring fence you sit you will need to define your position.

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15 Responses to “attention businesses – be careful what you wish for”

  1. Alana

    06. Apr, 2010

    When I look to hire someone I want to know that they have a personality, especially one that will fit into the team and organisation. I want to know that a person brings life experience and is exposed to many different things that can influence their ideas. So while one employer may look at a potential employee’s hobby unfavourably or write them off over some old party pictures, another will look at that candidate as someone who has learned from their mistakes and actually lived life.

    With the rapid changes in the way lives are being documented on the web, the rules are changing. Yes, reputations can be damaged. Yes, you could become undesirable for a certain job. But, maybe your lifestyle doesn’t fit with that organisation anyway.

  2. uberVU - social comments

    07. Apr, 2010

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by JimiHopkins: My warning to businesses – be careful what you wish for – http://bit.ly/9TmLle...

  3. james

    13. Apr, 2010

    Alana, many thanks for your comments and point of view.

    You highlight another area for dicussion which of course is the positive rammifications of such a service.

    As hiring managers I think it’s important we do our checks on people and Facebook etc can often say a lot about someone, or at least the what they chose to publish.

    My major area of concern though is companies continuing to monitor profiles and new activity once that hiring decision has been made (Assuming as you have been hired already that you are somewhat of a fit), and the potential limitations this may have on a person and their internal progression. A new manager coming on board for example, could change your career path dramatically as it often does anyway, however personal views can easily over ride that of the organisation that has hired that person.

    Different industries, professions and people will all react differently to different content, so keeping your profile as safe as possible for the broadest possible audience is certainly a consideration.

    Thanks for reading and for taking the time to leave your feedback.

  4. Joel

    13. May, 2010

    Hi James,

    I agree with a lot of what you have said.

    I see no problem with giving a potential employee a quick look up and then having a glance over their various profiles, however with that said I would not be going through their entire profile in detail because to be honest whatever moral or ethical differences we have in our personal behaviour that should not be relevant to their work. What I look for is evidence of common sense, for example: if their profile picture is them with a bong I know that their not the most clever of people and therefor may want to think about the potential impact of someone who doesn’t fully think out decisions. I see this kind of thing as very different to an offensive joke, or link to an article I dont agree with.

    With regards to ongoing monitoring, I take the view that it is unnecessary and a complete waste of time and money. Speaking from an employee’s perspective, if I had an employer speak to me about my conduct online (through personal, non work orientated profiles) I would be immediately looking for a new job and I’m sure many feel the same way.
    Speaking from an employer/manager perspective I honestly don’t think that this practice of ongoing monitoring will gain long-term traction as even if it is only $5 a head, the time needed to monitor and analyse the information makes it a massive drain on resources for very limited potential payoff… The most a business could ever achieve is to catch an employee saying they hate their job, and who cares, everyone has good days and bad days and anybody with any common sense would recognize that.

    If negative employee sentiment is a massive concern to you as a business the issue is not that your employees post about it online, it is that there is a fundamental issue within the business, usually relating to poor leadership or a lack of employee recognition within the business. More often than not problems that extend throughout the business start at the top and spread downwards.

    /rant

  5. [...] we are seeing at the moment is companies rushing to control this output through monitoring of employees online activity and then taking action off the back of it the problem with this is that it is in no way a cost efficient use of anybodies time. If employees [...]

  6. James Hopkins

    13. May, 2010

    Thanks Joel, some really great points there – I appreciate you contributing to the discussion.

    I beleive it’s a scare tactic that I hope businesses don’t buy into, and if they do, disclosure to employees and candidates is essential!

  7. Joel

    13. May, 2010

    Okay so I wrote a response with my POV on this issue.

    See it here: http://bit.ly/cRohGi

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