Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

What if someone sees this?

I read an interesting post on Seth Godin’s blog yesterday.  It tells the story of someone, who had three people short-listed for a job as a housekeeper.  The employer decided to Google their names and found they were totally unsuitable; all because of the information she found about them online.

Only last week, a web designer told me he had lost a highly profitable piece of work, after his prospective client checked him out online.  He hadn’t written anything offensive and there were no negative comments anywhere about either him or his services.  The client withdrew the project, simply because they were uncomfortable hiring someone who was regularly posting to Twitter after midnight!

Apparently, they said his late night Twittering suggested to them that he would not be awake enough during the working day, to handle their project professionally.  The next day I read an article on the BBC website, about a lady who was fired, for saying that her new job was boring, on FaceBook.

Whatever you happen to think about these decisions, there’s a valuable lesson here.

We live in an age where most of what we do online is visible AND searchable.  We also know that employers and prospective clients are now checking people and companies out online, before making hiring or buying decisions. Before you post searchable information online, ensure that is consistent with the image you want to project; either of yourself your business or both.

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  1. It can work both ways too. I sometimes wonder if my employees check my tweets to see what I’ve been up to!

  2. I agree that you always want to keep it professional and be ever-mindful of how your online scent trail might be interpreted. But also keep in mind that you’ll never please some people – the web designer in the example could have been up after midnight all the time doing client work.

  3. Jim,

    This is a great article and I agree that we should all consider what we do and say online. In my case, I chose to just be myself and know that for the people who matter, being me is good enough.

    Unfortunately, we cannot cure ignorance all at once. The company concerned about Twittering after midnight is laughable. It was just yesterday when at 12:13AM I showered and brewed a pot of coffee all set to Twitter, Webcast, and blog through the night. If they saw that, they would never hire me. The terrible part is that they would have missed the whole picture, like the tweets showing the rest of the story below:


    It is important to look at the whole picture. Tragically, many people do not.

  4. @mark.
    Not sure what point you are making here? All those links show is that you sit up all night on twitter. Why would that make someone wanna hire you exactly?

  5. None of this is really new. Heck, I spend more nights up late in front of the computer AT work than I do away from it. Doesn’t change the fact that I’m up late and on Twitter (or blogging or facebook, or any other number of social sites). Even colleges are known to check up on applicants these days. Honestly, it says as much to me about the companies as it does about the people in question.

    Yes, we do live in an open world these days – seems most people even google their dates’ names, etc. (Yup, I’ve been guilty of this. I find it more odd when I CAN’T find someone online than when I can…)

    • Danny,

      I have often been sat at my computer after midnight – as a writer, it’s actually pretty common. I think we each have different ideas about what is and is not ‘appropriate’ when it comes to how people conduct themselves.

  6. Lawrence Harper

    March 1, 2009 at 22:39

    I agree with you. I dont use twitter myself yet, but if someones using it for like 36 hours without a break thats just weird, right there.

  7. This is such an important topic. We need to be mindful of everything we put online, even when it seems to be limited to a small number of people. We have no control over what they’ll do with that photo taken during a crazy weekend. We also have no control over what others post about us. Managing our online reputation is tricky business, but it is a challenge that is here to stay.

    Timely topic, as always, Jim!

  8. Wayne Harrison

    March 2, 2009 at 02:11

    This article goes even further and has a lot of good suggestions:

    Tips To Manage Your Online Reputation In A Job Hunt


  9. Corey Freeman

    March 2, 2009 at 02:21

    That’s certainly an interesting story, and kind of funny. I never understand why people post elicit pics of themselves online, however, it’s odd to think that what we do doesn’t really register with us for future consequences.

    Something as simple as “this job is boring” getting someone fired seems insane, yet I can understand it from the business owner’s front. Still, no doubt that was an afterthought. It’s the afterthoughts that kill us in the end.

  10. a friend was fired via FaceBook. as in they found out when the manager posted the information on FB. not cool. all this can be managed via privacy options. something i need to consider. but it has made keeping track of my friends relationships that much better. lastly what about working unconventional work hours?

  11. I am using Twitter for work but part of Twitter’s success is that it is not too ‘worky’, and a lot of posts are personal, funny or have nothing to do with work. Si am I doing work when Tweeting or not?

  12. Wow. This is just insane. What does posting on any site have to do with your job? Why be online if it can get you fired even if its not on a work related site.

  13. Toma Bonciu - SEO Services

    March 2, 2009 at 16:24

    Hi Jim,

    I’ve read the article of Mr. Seth when he publish it and this was just the talk I had with my wife.

    You may be young and you go to parties and you record your wild nights and post it on YouTube. 5 years later you can’t get a job because of that.

    And seems that this kind of things are happening more and more : employers Google their employees :-) A few years ago was the other way around.

    Google doesn’t forgets.


  14. A parallel story to this one is the eroding expectation of privacy. There was a time my wife and I would cringe at the thought of posting pictures of our kids online. Now, with Facebook, we look forward to doing so. At every step, there is a way to break down the wall of privacy online and let the world in.

  15. I think if they don’t take the time to learn about the social applications before they begin posting on them in ways that can harm their careers then they had it coming. it doesn’t hurt to go through all the settings and options of social media sites to see what things you can do with them before a person begins sharing intimate information they may one day want to delete. when i need to stay odd stuff on twitter i make the stream protected till i’m done. then delete them before opening it up again.

  16. I think the case of the guy tweeting after midnight is a little extreme. Especially for designers who work crazy schedules, it’s up to their ability to freelance and get the job done. If he was tweeting and bashing clients, I could understand not wanting to work with him, but just because he’s up late doesn’t me he wakes up even later.

  17. Is it possible that social media will begin to transform how we behave as humans. Perhaps if we try to be better people online it will transfer into our everyday lives.

  18. By putting a public face on our personal lives we open ourselves up to everyone. I had a very similar experience with a real estate agent.

    We hired a team of two agents to sell our house. They were young, but one was next in line to be the principal broker of a major office and they had a great track record.

    About 2 weeks after our house was listed my wife found them on my space. One picture featured one of our agents urinating off a deck while drinking. Under that was an advertisement for our house.

    Needless to say, we won’t be using them again. They were good agents and I don’t care what they do in their personal time, but to market my house next to pictures like that was just too much for us.

    Anytime we make our private lives public we risk exposing ourselves… enough said.

  19. Your last sentence in the post says it all.

    That’s how bloggers get into trouble sometimes. They don’t realise the power of the Internet.

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