I was going through the profiles of some businesses that I follow on social media when I noticed something that was highly discouraging. Some had statements on their Twitter pages that read something to the effect of “a retweet does not mean we endorse it.” On Facebook, there were disclaimers added to the about section that read “liked, commented on, or shared content does not constitute an endorsement by XXXXXXX of the content or companies engaged.”
Wrong. That’s incorrect. You could put whatever disclaimers you want on your business social profiles and it won’t change the fact that if you retweet something, you’re endorsing it. Legalizing the wording in your Facebook or Google+ description does not take away responsibility if your page comments on a some other company’s post or shares an offensive image on the feed.
This is a business. Any public interactions are your responsibility and disclaimers like these do more harm than good. The harm is in the message that it sends to people visiting your business profiles: “There’s a possibility that we or the company that’s running our social media might be careless and like the wrong thing so we are not responsible for this representation of our company.”
Every like, retweet, share, +1, repin, or any other social engagement IS a representation of your company’s opinions and should be construed as an endorsement, period. The only exception is a comment made by the business on someone’s post. Depending on the demeanor and tone of the comment, it does not necessarily mean an endorsement. If you’re offering an alternative viewpoint to the post, that’s obviously not an endorsement.
How employees representing the company through social media handle their accounts does fall into some gray area. I have nothing against employees, managers, and even some executives (other than the president, chairperson, or CEO) can make a disclaimer that says the opinions shared on social media are their personal opinions and do not represent the company. However, it does reflect on the company regardless of any disclaimer and all employees must be made aware in the form of a social media policy that they might not be representing, but they are a reflection.
While I’m not big on social media policies that prohibit or restrain employees from using social media how they see fit, they must also be made aware that their actions on public social media forums are equivalent to their actions in real life in regards to their employment. Just as a company would fire a driver for getting a DUI, they could also be fired if a picture is posted of them drinking and driving even if they did not get pulled over.
Businesses need to handle their social media with care. That does not mean that they have to be too careful about their social media. Bland and generic do not work, but careless can be even worse.
“Endorsement” image courtesy of Shutterstock.