Inappropriate Social Media Use for Professionals: Examples & Consequences

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Social media can be a fun personal platform, but it can create problems professionally. In this lesson, you'll learn about some consequences and examples of inappropriate social media use for professionals.


What would you do if a social media post came between you and a high-paying job? That's the predicament then-University of California student Connor Riley found herself in once upon a time. Riley was offered an internship with IT and networking company Cisco. This seems like a perfect fit for someone who majored in information management and systems, right? Except it didn't have a happy ending.

After receiving the offer, Riley took to Twitter with this message: ''Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.''

Shortly after this comment was posted, a Cisco employee found out about Riley's tweet and reported it to the individual who had offered the college student the internship. The offer to work at Cisco was swiftly retracted, teaching a young job-hunter a hard lesson about being careful what you say on social media.

It's not just college students who put things out there that create problems with potential and current employers. Everyone from journalists to waiters to retail employees have found themselves on the bad end of a social media post that resulted in legal action, work conflict or even the loss of employment.

Let's take a look at some social media posts that might land you in hot water and some people who learned about the dangers of social media the hard way.

Inappropriate Social Media Usage

Social media, websites where users from around the world can share everything from their political views to what they ate for dinner, infiltrates every corner of our world today. While a majority of it is perfectly innocent, there have been times that the wrong words or even images have created a firestorm between employee and employer.

Here are some ideas of posts that could cause problems for employees:

1. The Look-How-Provocative-You-Are Post: It's tempting to share images from that drunken bridal shower with your girlfriends or the guy's trip to Vegas with scantily-clad showgirls. Provocative photos and text posts, even if they only happen once, could paint you as a party animal or an abuser of alcohol or drugs. This may conflict with the professional image that potential or current employers expect from their workers.

2. The You-Hate-Your-Job Post: Who doesn't love to complain, just a little, about a bad day at work, a too-bossy boss or that co-worker who chews too loudly in the breakroom? Potential employers may be on the lookout for negativity directed at previous bosses or work environments and may opt out of extending an offer. After all, who wants that negativity and bad-mouthing encroaching on their workplace?

3. The You-Shouldn't-Have-Said-That-During-Work Post: With varying privacy settings in place across different social media platforms, it's pretty easy to slip up and share something with your friends and family while you're working that your supervisor might see. Since everything is time-stamped, they'll know that - whoops - you were on Facebook when you were supposed to be working. In some roles, it may not be an issue, but be sure you're up-to-date on your company's social media policies.

4. The You-Said-Too-Much Post: At any place of business, there are confidential matters that employers don't want out there in the general public. Betraying workplace confidences by tweeting about them can, at the very least, show you are disloyal, and at the very worst, put you square in the center of a lawsuit or termination.

5. The You-Should-Have-Used-Spellcheck Post: In an era of ''LOL'' and ''OMG,'' the premium placed on proper spelling and grammar seems to have taken a nosedive. In some professions, a social media post full of misspellings or one that demonstrates lackluster communication skills could be enough to have an employer looking for a more well-spoken candidate.

When Social Media Goes Wrong

There are, of course, numerous types of inappropriate social media posts beyond the ones we've just looked at, but the people in the following examples have fallen victim to one or more of these very problems.

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