Professional social media v. personal social media – lessons from Stuart MacLennan

Stuart MacLennan is the first candidate in the UK general election 2010 to be forced to resign / be sacked as a parliamentary candidate because of their behaviour on social media / social networks.

The most interesting aspect of this to me isn’t the political one, but the professional business one. As more and more people use Twitter, Facebook and blogs we know far more about people than we’ve ever done before. The first thing that I do when recruiting someone is check them out online. It’s a matter of few minutes to go back and read hundreds of their previous tweets and find out far more about the real them than any CV, reference or interview could ever reveal.

The implication of this is two-fold.

Firstly, everyone has to lighten up a bit. Not every misdemeanour should be held against you for ever. People grow up. People learn. People change their minds. Everyone (employers, voters, media) needs to become a bit more tolerant and understanding.

Secondly, people using social media and social networks, must start to act more responsibly. This doesn’t just mean by not tweeting stupid things or uploading inappropriate photographs to Facebook. The concept of personal privacy is changing, even if you don’t upload the picture or tweet about your stupid act, someone else might. That means don’t be an idiot in the first place. Start acting more responsibly because people will find you out.

There is a fine dividing line between the two as different people will have different views on what is/isn’t acceptable. I’m extremely anti-illegal drugs and you won’t get any tolerance from me whatsoever. It’s illegal, therefore you’re a criminal. End of story – end of you.

Everyone has to start thinking much more about their personal reputation management and although I haven’t read it yet I suspect Me and My Web Shadow by Antony Mayfield might be worth a read.

MacLennan probably won’t be the last, but it wasn’t social media that was the problem, it was his views. Those sorts of comments would have been just as inappropriate in a pub or a bar, it’s just there wouldn’t have been a public record so proving it and getting rid of him would have been harder.


About Stuart Bruce

International communications consultant and PR trainer specialising in online public affairs, digital corporate communications, online PR and social media; frequent national media commentator and conference speaker.
  • http://twitter.com/craigmcgill Craig McGill

    Stuart, as I posted over at http://bit.ly/bDYB9C I think most people are fairly forgiving now of people swearing or being sarcastic online. Most decent-minded people accept that we aren't all clones and that yes, you can think people from Stirling are ugly or be amazed at Obama winning awards.

    Where he went wrong was having the majority of his posts being quite sweary, rude or cheeky. Because if that's all you portray online, people will think that's all you are.

    I know you've done the split blogs and online IDs before (I'm doing that just now as well) and I wonder if we'll see more people doing that in future.

    What I don't know is if it was his views that cost him his chance. There's a belief going round the Twitterverse that Labour people were aware of his tweets. If that's the case they've only sacked him for it becoming more public, which to me strikes as being pretty shallow. It also shows that traditional press still has power (something you and I have agreed on in the past.)

    But as you say, yeah, if it was for his beliefs he paid the price. Though in a democracy he should at least get the chance to stand up and defend them (if he believes them and wasn't being a show-off).

    It's strange as well because if there's one thing Labour does have, is some very good people at online. There's a few Tom's for a start that are good at it.

  • O'Patrick Wilson

    And, of course HR departments in companies are starting to screen potential candidates on social media. I wonder about the legal implications?

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