Why Professionalism on Social Media is Essential for Your Employees (and You)
Never say or do anything on social media that you wouldn’t do in the real world. Unfortunately, it seems as though a lot of people forget that. You can’t afford to do that, and not just because misconduct can land you in legal trouble. Bad behavior online can end up costing you your reputation, too.
By now, we’ve all read at least one story of an employee being dismissed due to improper social media behavior. Regardless of industry, regardless of their level of education or their apparent professional expertise, people seem to frequently forget one immutable truth about social networks. Ultimately, they are public forums, and the things you post on them can and will find their way back to you in the real world.
What that means is that poor behavior – either by you or your staff – on Facebook or Twitter can land you in legal trouble. It can cause irreparable damage to your reputation. In some cases, it can even get you disbarred.
Consider Joyce Nanine, the lawyer who was disbarred after she attempted to use Twitter to influence two custody cases that involved alleged sexual abuse. Or Jonathan Simkin, who was forced to delete twitter in an attempt to salvage his reputation after posting an inflammatory tweet. Or Sal Perricone, who was disbarred in 2018 for posting stories about the cases he’d prosecuted in the past.
“In this age of social media, it is important for all attorneys to bear in mind that ‘[t]he vigorous advocacy we demand of the legal profession is accepted because it takes place under the neutral, dispassionate control of the judicial system,” reads a statement by the Louisiana Supreme Court regarding Perricone’s disbarment. “Our decision today must send a strong message to [the] respondent and to all the members of the bar that a lawyer’s ethical obligations are not diminished by the mask of anonymity provided by the Internet.”
There it is laid out in black and white. You are obligated to maintain a certain degree of professionalism in all your dealings – including how you conduct yourself online. All rules and regulations regarding barratry, advertising, and communication are entirely applicable to social networks.
A good rule of thumb before you post anything is to ask yourself if this is the kind of thing you’d want to see associated with your brand. If this is the kind of thing you would say directly to a client during a consultation.
Because ultimately, publishing something inflammatory online is akin to screaming it in the middle of a crowded mall. Certainly, there’s a chance you’ll get away with it. But it’s far likelier that there will be damaging consequences to what you’ve done – and anonymity, as has been demonstrated on multiple occasions, will not protect you.
As a professional, you’re used to holding yourself to a high standard in your professional life. Those standards of behavior need to extend to social media, as well. Because if they don’t, it’s probably time to consider a career change.
About the Author:
Ryan B. Bormaster is the managing attorney at Bormaster Law. The law firm practices in a number of areas but specializes in 18 Wheeler Accidents, Accidents with Commercial Vehicles such as Work Trucks and Catastrophic Injuries of all kinds.