Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Be discrete when you tweet, blog, etc.

Yesterday, in commenting on the leaked conversations of Canadian Natural Resource Minister Lisa Raitt, I stressed the importance of choosing every word you say carefully, even in private conversations. It should go without saying, but it's also good advice to watch what you say in public forums.

Take this story , for instance. Israel Hyman suspects the fact that his home was burglarized could be linked to the tweets he sent to his 2,000 followers about his vacation plans. While he having a lovely time in Kansas City seeing concerts, his home was relieved of several thousand dollars of video equipment.

Maybe, just maybe, there is no relation between the theft and the tweets. But telling 2,000 followers you aren't home is an inadvertent invitation or advertisement to assorted nogoodniks to come and avail themselves of your prized possessions. It also, probably, isn't the kind of information you should be tweeting to 2,000 people, only some of whom you are likely to know in such intimate detail that you can name their favorite color, movie, first pet, etc.

And yet, even I have been naive enough to post Twitter and Facebook messages in the past month proclaiming that I was living it up in Maine. (At least to the extent that the law allows you to live it up in picturesque, rosy-cheeked New England states.) So, I'm not making an example of Hyman's mistake to show myself up as a hypocrite. It's more to acknowledge we are all capable (even me), at times, of revealing too much information in public.

It's easy to do, particularly with social media tools, which are built on immediacy. You can connect, in an instant, to hundreds, even thousands, of people around the world. People like and unlike you. People with differing views, beliefs and mores than you. People who may take offense at, or advantage of, the thoughts you express or the things you do, in part because they don't share your views, beliefs or mores. Other times, it may be because they do not know you well enough to gauge your true intent.

These people may not come to your house and take your electronics while you frolic in the Florida Keys. They could, however, pass you over for a lucrative contract or position based on something you've posted, and you may never know the reason why. They could use the material you post in ways you never intended or imagined. Or, they could damage your reputation or brand by disseminating that material to their colleagues. And I haven't even covered the potential for idea theft, copyright infringement, or identity theft from posting sensitive information.

It's such a drag to be the voice that says think before you speak, and a hard position to defend when I don't always walk the walk. But the more reflection you give to every post, tweet or snapshot you upload, the less you risk harm to your integrity, business or home tweet home. And that's one to grow on...

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