Their social media activities cost police chef Gerda Dijksman and TV presenter Cornald Maas their jobs last year. In both cases Twitter was the chosen means. The TROS broadcasting company terminated  Maas’ contract, after a sarcastic message was posted about Eurovision singer Sieneke. Dijksman was suspended after responding to a fatal accident in a clumsy way. In late 2010 two French employees were laid off because of critical comments they posted about their employers on Facebook.

These events raise a number of questions: What can or cannot be published through social media? What do you broadcast to the world? What do you fence off and what do you keep to yourself? And what can your employer expect from you in this area?

Some companies prefer to impose rules on their employees’ social media behavior, which is, in fact, unnecessary. It is enough to point out to staff the consequences of what they do and say online. This is of mutual interest.


On Internet it is as in real life: offline. If you call your boss a jerk in the middle of the street, people around you are likely to hear it. It impacts the way they look at and think of you. Your boss could hear it him/herself. Even if your supervisor does not overhear your opinions when (s)he passes by, your message might reach him or her through a bystander. This is not very convenient, to say the least. After all, what impression do you get from people who slander others?

Online, the consequences of thoughtless behavior persist much longer, and even more severe. Each query term entered comprising your name, can result in exposing your trash talk, time and time again. Why? Others could link to it and retweet your messages. As a result, the retrieval of your thoughtless action is further increased.

It is not wise to leave secrets behind in a taxi on a USB stick or to let the cat out of the bag at a party. On the web, for the reason given above, that is even worse.

Mutual interest

Ultimately, it comes down to the 3Rs of Social Media Engagement: responsibility, respect and representation. That is, be absolutely clear about whether you are speaking on behalf of your employer or giving your own opinion. In both cases behave responsibly and show respect for others. This benefits both your reputation and that of your employer.

In short, in the digital age where everyone can communicate with everyone and everything you publish online can be retrieved for eternity, make sure you: ‘look before you leap’.

Excerpt from the 2011 PIM Marketing Trend Report. The full report is available via Platform Innovation in Marketing (PIM).

Visual by _ashish_