SPECIAL FEATURE: The roar of social media

Robyn Hall

July 31, 2015

You might think it’s a slow news month when the death of a lion in Zimbabwe at the hands of a ‘hunter’ – and I use that word in its loosest terms – is splashed everywhere but such is the power of public opinion, especially when expressed on social media, that it’s not really that surprising anymore.

Social media creates and it takes away, often in equal measure, and the law of the social media jungle – no pun intended – can be brutal.

It will not need me to tell you about the story of Walter Palmer and his killing of #Cecilthelion because, quite frankly, you would need to have had your head under a suitably large rock to be ignorant of it.

At the time of writing, many are seeking the extradition of the American dentist, so that he can be tried for the killing of this beautiful, protected animal and we shall have to see how that plays out.

As so often happens these days, stories find their natural level via social media and when you have celebrities like Ricky Gervais, who have phenomenal follower numbers, wading into the debate then traction is always going to be gained.

What is perhaps interesting about this story and social media is the total blurring of lines between Walter Palmer, the man who hunts in his spare time, and Walter Palmer, the man who runs a dental practice.

The opprobrium levelled at Palmer via social media and beyond for actions he took in his own personal time are ultimately going to impact very hard on his business, his clients and all those who work for him.

The pickets outside the premises will tell you that as will the recently-closed company Facebook page.

There is no demarcation here – personal impacts business, business impacts personal. The two go hand in hand and damage inflicted in one part can cross-over and ultimately destroy another.

Drilling down into this, it’s the reason why we suggest you have a strict distinction between, for example, personal social media accounts and those for your business.

Even by doing this you are in real danger should you decide to tweet or post something offensive or libellous, racist or sexist – the list goes on – in a personal account because how many times have we heard of individuals who lose their jobs because of such actions?

No employer wants guilt by association or wants to be known for employing ‘such people’.

There is without doubt a line and it shouldn’t be crossed otherwise the consequences can be severe for all concerned.

Just ask Walter Palmer. And his staff at the moment who are off work and looking forward to an uncertain future because of the ‘hobby’ their boss indulges in during his spare time. This is not their battle but they are ultimately likely to be losers from it.

There’s a simple, yet effective plan, when it comes to this.

It’s called taking a common-sense approach.

Think twice before you post or tweet or respond online, think three times if it’s coming from a work account, and just think long and hard before you write anything that could ultimately do you, your personal life, and your business real long-term damage. RIP Cecil.

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