We have all heard the cautionary tale about loose lips sinking ships. In this Internet 2.0 age, it is even more important to keep that axiom in mind. Between Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, blogs, texting, YouTube, and whatever the next thing to come down the pike may be; we are in a precarious position and if we are not careful, our ship may indeed be sunk!
Social networking is awesome. I am completely sold on the two most popular—Twitter and Facebook. I am loving Twitter for the fact that people can follow me (it is their choice) and I can push information to them (it is my choice). I am no longer relying on them to visit my website, read my emails, or return a phone call. Facebook is another great tool. It has allowed me to build a virtual community of single parents interested in my specific niche. And even more encouraging is that many of my “friends” were strangers before Facebook. The beauty of these two tools is that the prospect elects to follow you or to receive your information–you are not reliant on them stumbling onto your site or seeing an ad someplace. Additionally, the search features of both applications allow anyone a much deeper reach into the potential client pool. But, there is a downside…a very dangerous downside.
Two weeks ago, I heard of a woman being fired from her job for calling in sick. While home “sick” she updated her Facebook status with “fooled the boss ready to party”. A major deadline was missed and now she is pounding the pavement.
For the teen and tween set, the latest rage is “sexting” where an inappropriate photo is sent via cell phone. While the parties may think it is private, this behavior is like herpes, it spreads. Before you know it, the one picture you texted to your one friend is now on the phones of thousands of people. A principal in Northern Virginia who was investigating a “sexting” case lost his job for possession of child porn. Criminal charges were dropped, but the damage to his reputation was done. A 17 year old boy in Virginia had a photo of his 15 year old girlfriend on his phone. He was charged as an adult with a felony and is now a registered child sex offender.
Twitter is not exempt. To highlight another Virginia story, a Massachusetts film editor answered a tweet inquiring about what he was doing. He replied in the mandated 140 characters or less “I work 45 hours a week as an assistant editor in Boston editing political campaign commercials. Right now: Bob McDonnell for VA Gov.” The only problem was the candidate had not announced his candidacy and the timing of the announcement was a closely guarded secret. The tweet made the rounds and in three hours, the opposing political party had plans in place to produce commercials to discredit the potential candidate.
So, how does this affect travel? Here is another real life example. Last week, a tweet was sent from a travel supplier’s employee. The employee was a manager of a group desk specifically for travel agents. The employee’s profile on Twitter identified the company and her position. When you looked at her recent tweets, you could see that she did not really like her job and wanted to be home with her young children. Apparently she just discovered Twitter and had been tweeting for less than five days when she sent a tweet that went something like this:
I can’t wait to get out of here. I am sick of dealing with stupid lazy travel agents. They are so dumb.
It was followed by:
Lunchtime, so tired of dealing with lazy ass travel agents all morning.
Well, in less than 30 minutes, a high level executive of the company was contacted. Within 45 minutes the profile and the offending tweets were deleted. And in a follow up with the executive today, I learned, “The young lady was written up with a stern warning that any infraction going forward is immediate grounds for termination.”
We all have muttered about suppliers and clients under our breath, but you need to remember, that the Internet is decidedly not under your breath–not by a long shot. As a matter of fact, the Internet is less forgiving than humans—humans forget and move on, the Internet creates a physical record. People have lost and been passed up for jobs. Applicants have been turned down from schools. And now a manager with a travel supplier is on very thin ice. With the Internet, you can never take back your words.
Before you commit anything to the Internet via email, instant message, your blog, MySpace, Facebook, or Twitter, you must ask yourself if the message is a good one. Would you be ok with your mother or grandmother hearing what you are saying? We have some wonderful tools at our disposal and likely more to come. But just like using any tool, you need to learn to use it responsibly.
Now where was that chainsaw?