As I write this, across the UK, people are debating the rights and wrongs of Charlotte Proudman, the City Lawyer who called out Alexander Carter-Silk, a Senior Partner from another firm, for sending her a message on LinkedIn passing comment on her “striking profile photo”.
Now, this post isn’t about Charlotte and Robert’s predicament.
It’s only 3pm and I’m sick of hearing about that already.
I’m sure you are too.
Stay with me.
What inspired this post is a debate that I’ve been partaking in, inside a closed Facebook group that I am a member of.
In particular, it was triggered by a comment made by a fellow member of the group.
Her response was “I think she should just get over it.”
Nothing wrong with that opinion per se. It’s a view shared by many others too.
However, this particular person is a HR expert.
I’m pretty sure that in her professional capacity, she wouldn’t give that advice to an employee. Or at least, not without consideration and understanding towards both parties involved.
It was just a throwaway comment.
Now here’s the thing. I know that when we’re with our friends, we enjoy a bit of banter. And I’m pretty sure that every single one of us has made a throwaway comment to friends that we wouldn’t necessarily say in front of a prospective client.
I have, and I’m sure you have too.
I also know that when you’ve got to know people you are connected to online over time, you come to see them as friends.
But this is where it can get dangerous.
It’s dangerous because you let your guard down.
Perhaps it’s a comment you make on a friend’s post in your newsfeed. Maybe a response to a post in a closed group. Or even a message sent privately.
It’s just a throwaway comment between friends.
Except it isn’t.
Leaving aside the privacy aspect of a private message for a minute, whenever and wherever you show up online, you are surrounded by your prospective customers.
And EVERYTHING you say is being judged by those same prospective customers.
So, that throwaway comment you made to your friend – it’s now become part of your marketing campaign.
It’s been read by a bunch of people who are assessing whether you’re someone they align with; the expert that they’d want to work with.
Even private messages can be screen grabbed and shared. That’s exactly what has happened to Mr Carter-Silk in the scenario being debated today.
I shared with the HR person my surprise at their comment, given what they do. In a further discussion, she gave me a longer explanation, and this put everything back into context for me.
All good. No damage done.
The thing is though, 99.99% of the people reading your posts and comments will not ask for further clarification. They will take what they see, and base their opinion on that one comment.
It’s very easy to gain your prospects’ trust online, but it’s bloody difficult to win someone over again if their trust in you is damaged.
The damage could cost you enormously.
Now, I don’t want to put you off interacting online, nor do I want you to feel you have to run every comment past your Lawyer for “worst scenario screening” before you post.
I absolutely am not advising you to be all candy floss and apple pie in case you upset someone either.
Not at all.
I just ask you to remember one thing.
You are NOT amongst friends anywhere online. You are in the middle of a crowd of your prospective customers, who only have what you write on which to base their opinion of you and your business.
Before you post anything, just read it again quickly as if you were a stranger reading. Is your message coming over in the way you want to show up in front of your prospects?
And finally, don’t hit the send button on anything you’d not want to see splashed all over the TV and newspapers – I bet Alexander Carter-Silk is wishing he could turn back the clock this morning!
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