How To Avoid Social Media Mistakes That Will Get You Fired

It’s an interesting conundrum. As an employee or a job seeker, you’re encouraged to be active on social media. After all, according to the 2015 Jobvite Recruiter Nation survey, 92 percent of recruiters said they are turning more and more to social media to recruit talent. But, your social media presence can also get your fired — or keep you from ever getting the job in the first place.

The trick, then, is to balance the opportunities social media provides while being mindful of the potential pitfalls.

Here are four people who weren’t so mindful, and what you can learn from their mistakes:

1. Man asks drug dealer to deliver him weed at work on Twitter.

Really? This happened? Yes.

Quickly after a Canadian man tweeted asking for a drug dealer in the area to deliver him weed at work, the local police’s Twitter account responded and, despite the tweeter’s claims that it was a joke, the organization he worked at later confirmed he was relieved of his duties.

The lesson: Beyond the obvious “don’t post about illegal activities,” you never know who’s listening.

Here, it was the police, but in everyday situations it could be your boss, your clients, or other people who may see questionable content you share and create problems for you at work. You may block people like your boss, manager, etc., but you can’t ever really be sure who sees the things you share.

Avoid posting things that are too controversial or could impact your status at work, even if it’s from a personal account, to make sure your social media activity doesn’t hurt you down the road.

2. Tennessee man posts death wish for local office on Facebook, resigns under pressure.

Larry Hughes got a speeding ticket on the way to work one morning and instead of banging his hands on the steering wheel like most people, he took to Facebook. Hughes wrote a scathing post that wished death on the officer. Although he quickly took it down, the post had already gone viral.

The result? Hughes received hate messages on Facebook from all over the country, and his employers got dozens of messages asking for him to be fired. Soon after, Hughes resigned to avoid causing the company any more problems.

The lesson: When something happens that makes you want to vent on social media, take a minute to think about the ramifications it could have on your personal and professional life before you hit the keyboard.

If you can’t stop yourself, type out your post in a text editor or email draft then read it over before posting it. More often than not, you’ll realize how harmful it can be and hit delete.

3. Hydro One employee fired for live TV comments that went viral.

Shawn Simoes thought he was being funny when he supported his friends’ vulgar interruption of a live newscast by arguing that it was “f—— hilarious” and not disrespectful, because it happens everywhere. Video of the reporter challenging Simoes and his friends, which happened outside of a Toronto FC soccer match, went viral.

Once newspapers made a connection between Simoes and Hydro One, his employer saw the video and quickly released a statement saying it was terminating Simoes based on a violation of its code of conduct.

The lesson: In our social media-connected world, you always represent your employer. Whether you post inflammatory things online or say them in public, there’s a possibility that your employer will see them and take action.

Yes, Simoes interrupted a live TV broadcast, so his face was everywhere within minutes. But the same thing can happen to you if someone around you is recording your actions. Just because you’re not online doesn’t mean you can’t end up there, and if you do, your employer may not like how you’re representing them.

4. Facebook & Twitter posts cost CFO his job.

Gene Morphis was the CFO of fashion retailer Francesca’s Holdings Corp., until he started tweeting sensitive information about his company.

Morphis had a very active social media presence and a blog that he used to talk about just about everything. The problems started when he posted things like: “Board meeting. Good numbers=Happy Board” and “Roadshow completed. Sold $275 million of secondary shares. Earned my pay this week” on Facebook and Twitter.

Company officials reviewed his social media accounts and found out that, on top of venting about the rigors of his job, he frequently shared information that violated the company’s confidentiality policies. As a result, Morphis was terminated for cause.

The lesson: Whether you’re the CFO, an entry-level employee, or something in between, sharing information about what you’re working on or how you feel about your job could get you fired.

If you can’t avoid talking about work online, take the time to get to know your organization’s social media policies so you know what’s OK to talk about and what can get you in trouble.

If you are going to talk about work online, it’s always good practice to keep things positive. Instead of venting your frustrations with your boss to your followers, talk about the good things you’re doing or the role your company is playing in your community.

Will employers like what they see when they look at your social media activity? Could what you’re currently sharing get you in trouble?

Lior Tal is the co-founder and CEO of Rep’nUp, a platform that helps you instantly analyze and clean up yoursocial media profiles and easily manage your personal online reputation. Connect with Lior and the Rep’nUp team on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.