Social Media can be Your Rise and Fall in the Digital Age

10 Nov 2014 | by flint

Social Media can be Your Rise and Fall in the Digital Age

Are you sure you want to tweet that? Think about your tweet, IM or status update for a second before you hit send. You might be thinking ‘this is hilarious (to me)’ or ‘social media is there for venting, right?’ – Wrong. Whether you’re an individual or brand, your online presence is a reflection of who you are and your brand personality. With so many different personalities combining on social media, it is common to find other users who are easily offended by what someone else says. Where do we draw the line between justified self-expression and offensiveness?


As social media grows at a rapid pace within SA, the need for regulations and law structures is becoming more relevant, to protect individuals and companies from relegation. Social platforms have become a convenient medium through which we deal with customer service, communicate and receive information and, in the case of employers, screen potential employees.. This places a big emphasis on the way we regulate our online presence.


The Social Laws in SA are easy to understand and more laws are being researched and set in place on a regular basis. The most recent we have seen in media are employees committing social faux pas on their personal accounts and being publicly called out for it, causing them to lose their stable employment and security. It only takes 5 minutes for a user to track you and your place of work down. This usually results in others placing pressure on the company within the social sphere to reprimand you in order to avoid the negative association with their organisation and its ethics. A good example of what not to do when you are well known in the twitter sphere is the #HasJustineLandedYet incidence. A communications director for a major American company faced relegation and a dismissal when she landed after a 12-hour flight to Cape Town, tweeting before departure: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m White!”


On the other side of the spectrum is the leaking and spreading of naked selfies, sometimes referred to as “revenge porn”. Nude pictures of individuals, including celebrities, are leaked from hacked personal accounts, Snapchats or Dropbox. Most couples will engage in sending naked selfies etc. via IM and also teenagers use SnapChat for sexting due to it not storing data for longer than 10 seconds. Most users are not aware that sending a naked selfie via IM is illegal and counts towards the circulation of pornography/child pornography. This causes the sender and receiver to be involved in the repercussions and any person who receives the image thereafter. Thinking of snapping that selfie and sending it to your partner? Stop, think and delete. If things go sour you might end up on the www, and red faced. Ever heard of “The Fappening”? Don’t become a victim of it.


With so many laws and fails constantly found on social media daily, it is hard to understand why it keeps happening so often. When the case of defamation of a person’s character is challenged on a social platform or even a threat of some kind, not only the poster can be held liable. In a recent case a disgruntled wife involved her husband in a Facebook post about his ex wife. He didn’t comment or respond, but he also didn’t untag himself, resulting in him having to pay thousands in emotional damages to his ex wife. A not-so-smart move from his current, maybe even current ex, wife.


From the worst to the more lighthearted, we look at the faux pas that brands have been through, ranging from CEO’s shaming employees to community managers posting offensive jokes to clients and even airlines ‘accidentally’ replying with porn to a public query – These are all entertaining and make us go for the popcorn. Brands choosing to enter the social sphere do so at a weary pace, concerned about backlash and now also leaving their brand reputation in the hands of the social manager. As we saw with FNB, American Airlines and more recently an American pizza brand, bad social mistakes can happen to good brands.


Social media has given a turning point to South Africans being more open and sharing more with their peers, but be careful of what you share. The biggest backlashes we have seen in SA was “correctional rape”, “blackface” and also the Waterkloof kids making themselves YouTube stars for a day and then being sent back to jail. Within the first few minutes at least a few hundred people will notice your post and share it. Don’t think deleting it will help because someone somewhere most likely took a screenshot and someone else has already posted in on their blog. The moral of the story, nothing is private. As soon as you put it out there it is no longer your intellectual property and it will go viral if it’s juicy enough.


ORM (Online Reputation Management) is a practice we should all follow as individuals and as a company trying to create brand awareness. Check your content and hashtags, save it as a draft, walk away and re-look before you go posting happy, and prevent having to clean up the mess. The term “check yourself, before you wreck yourself comes to mind”. Ask yourself: Do I really want to post that?

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