Every other week we see an athlete, politician, celebrity, employee or even regular punter subject themselves to humiliation and damage of their reputation by social media.

Role Person Damage
Athlete Gold Coast Sun Trent McKenzie When Hayden Ballantyne of Fremantle was hit by Matthew Scarlett  of Geelong, Trent McKenzie wrote a tweet, since deleted read: “Matthew Scarlett did a favour for most people #lethimoff”. (Source)
Athlete Stephanie Rice Anti-gay comments on Twitter. (Source)
Athlete Carlton players Criticising umpire decisions (Source)
Athlete Carlton’s Brock McLean Commenting that he contracted HIVAids from a tweeter’s mother. (Source)
Politician Anthony Weiner Posting lewd photos which resulted in the end of his political career. (Source)
Celebrity Ashton Kutcher Tweeting his disappointment that  Joe Paterno lost his coaching job in the wake of child sex abuse charges. (Source)
Celebrity/Employee Catherine Deveny Tweeting about Bindi Irwin getting laid. Deveney lost her job as a result. (Source)
Employee @theconner Tweeting that Cisco offered her a job and not sure whether to take it. Cisco picked it up and rescinded the offer. (Source)
Employee Dominos staff Dominos employees do terrible things with the food they’re preparing for patrons. (Source)
Regular punter @Georgia_Ford (account no longer active) Tweeting a question about whether Wimbledon is always held in London. (Source)

No surprises there

Global society has been given access to tools with no training, warning or real understanding of how these tools can affect an individual once published.

Failing to realising that anything posted is publicly available is endemic across any age. Young and old are posting anything and everything with only a few amending privacy settings accordingly.

Posting publicly isn’t just a quick comment to your mates, or a funny that’s frowned upon but then dissipates into the atmosphere. Despite the more well known Twitter mishaps, we’re seeing these PR blunders crop up more frequently with young athletes in particular and increasingly in the corporate space as employees gain more confidence with their digital personas.

Where is the training?

When the first few AFL blunders happened this year, AFL’s CEO Andrew Demetriou, commented

You’re going to see more of that. That’s just the social media world that we live in.

I’m not so sure about that. Other athletes have been fined or lost their sponsorship for bad tweets, but it does not seem to be enough to curb behaviours. I don’t think it’s wise or responsible to let this problem keep occurring just because it’s a new social media world that we’re living in.

People in the public arena are often given media training to handle journalists and pointers on how to behave during an interview. With no barriers of entry to participate in Twitter and Facebook et al, it should be even more important for these sportspeople to be educated correctly in how to use the platform. There is no harm in delivering the right education and training to help them build their reputations, brands and connect with fans in the right way. It’s better than just letting them go out in the open with no guidelines.

In a corporate sense, it’s a much larger problem. As digital footprints are becoming larger, individuals should be much more mindful of the content they post online. Not only can individuals be traced to the companies they work for; they can potentially be posting information that should remain internal company information.

It’s a problem that’s consistent across all ages and requires training by companies to educate their employees on what’s ok and what’s not. It’s shocking to me that companies simply pass on a Social Media Policy without the proper education on what these tools and platforms can do without realising it is a corporate responsibility.

What do you think about the issue? What does your company do? Is there more than just a signing of the policy?

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