Business and social media folly

My wife Gloria and I met an apparently very pleasant fellow at a weekend barbecue recently. We had a long chat covering a wide range of non-contentious subjects, and it emerged we had a hobby in common – amateur radio, or ham radio if you like. He is also good at repairing gadgets such as vacuum cleaners. One might think a useful person to know.

Afterwards we thought it would be good to stay in touch, so I went to “friend” our new acquaintance on Facebook. It was then I saw that not only was his personal page full of extreme politics (and I do not do politics in social media) but that he had used profanities of the worst kind to describe those whom he saw as political opponents. That might include me although as I say, I keep my politics to myself.

Needless to say, I have not “friended” this guy. I do not want anyone to think I approve of such strong language by association with this individual, especially when so many of my Facebook friends I know in a business context.

Suppose the guy is looking for work in the future, applies for a job and the prospective client or employer sees all this stuff on Facebook. Will he get the work? I think not.

What a pity.

My Twitter for business rules

  • No politics
  • No following back of people using software to follow me
  • No following of people who just post quotes
  • No following of those who intend to be offensive whether with swear words or wind-up comments
  • Follow genuine likeable people
  • Follow people with quality postings
  • Follow people in my business unless they transgress another rule
  • Try to tweet valuable content but not news stories followers might have seen or can see for themselves.
  • Engage with those I follow and who follow me
  • Re-tweet posts of value

I have no compunction about unfollowing people who annoy me.

Oh, and keep the politics out of Facebook and other social media too. Thank you.

Do you have a tax issue I can help you with? Get in touch and I will guide you.


Politics, social media and small business. Yikes!

Here in the UK we have had a steamy time, and I do not mean the weather. There have been huge political debates adding heat to a very poor summer. All that is fine in news programmes, documentaries and in the newspapers which I read avidly on-line.

What I do not need is political opinions on my Facebook pages. Many of my FB friends, probably most, are people I know through business. If I had not had respect for them they would not be my friends. Yet more and more on my Home Page I see political opinions and diatribe. You might gather I do not agree with a lot of it, or in fact most of it that gets served up there. They will not get referred by me or I suspect other people too.

Of course I find certain opinions annoying as will many others. That is not why I would not refer the politicals. The reason is that I believe it disrespectful to foist one’s political views on my friends. I would not want to go to dinner with people who spent the whole time criticising my views and beliefs. Why should I put up with it on Facebook or any other social media site?

On Twitter I can choose who to follow and it makes it more selective. On Facebook I can “unfollow” someone while remaining their friend. That way I will not see their political output in my Home stream. But then why should I bother to be their friend?

Politics? Just leave me alone, please.

Religion, politics and small business

An amateur radio operator, Yvette Cendes, KB3H...

An amateur radio operator, Yvette Cendes, KB3HTS, at station W8EDU, Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back in the Dark Ages when I studied for my amateur radio license we learned that we must not discuss politics and religion with our fellow hams. That was actually a condition of our licenses, but it is easy to understand why such talk was forbidden. We all have different views and these would lead to arguments and bad feeling.

When I was first licensed I used to talk to radio amateurs all over the place, but many were in what was then the Eastern Block. It was really nice to chat about everyday life as well as technical stuff, but it might have caused bad feeling if we had ever strayed into politics or even talked about how much better life was in the West.

I never had an argument with a fellow ham, but instead was able to build genuine relationships over the air. It was great.

Now in our on-line digital world we have social media and the noise of it all is deafening. Like most people, I share news stories on Twitter and Facebook, but I try to avoid being political. I look for interesting techie stuff, and tweet news relevant to my niche and followers. The closest I come to politics is passing on stories of communities in crisis due to war, but I do not speak in support of or against any faction or Government.

Of course I have my views, but I also have my network on-line, my colleagues and my potential clients, and those to whom I would look to refer business if they were the best fit for someone I know. The last thing I need to do is antagonise anyone with whom I might work.

I think I need to treat my business network in the same way as my radio contacts. I respect the fact they may have strong views and a right to those views. If I do not have any conversations concerning politics and religion there is hope we might work together in the future, which we will not do if we argue and end up hating each other.

Do you treat politics and religion as taboos never to be discussed on-line?

The politics of networking or rubbing your contacts up the wrong way

iStock_000005618867XSmallI love networking. I have not been out and about for a few months for reasons beyond my control, but I do like to get out and meet people. It is not just because I like getting business, although it helps, and it is not about the joy of giving a referral. It is just great to talk to others in business and to learn from them and to hear their latest news.

However in a decade of networking meetings face-to-face I have never got involved in a discussion about politics. Politics is very divisive. People get heated. They say unkind things when they discuss an issue. There are ad hominem attacks on individuals whether in the room or otherwise. Networkers-in-person simply know better than to engage in any political discussion beyond the state of the economy, and that is usually talking about the present rather than who is responsible for it, good or bad.

So why do people in normally perfectly nice on-line forums sometimes start political arguments? It is very upsetting if one finds oneself involved, or even, as I read the other day, see one’s own views trashed by proxy. Of course I have political views. What reasonably intelligent person does not? I just do not mention them on-line except in pointing out when politicians are simply factually wrong on a subject where I have specialist knowledge.

Even reading someone else’s throwaway comment in a thread on Facebook can be very hurtful, and while it may not be intended, it can put one right off the person, even if socially you really like her / him.

It comes back to being really careful what we say on-line. As I have said before, when I got my amateur radio license or “ticket” a long time ago, we were bound by the ethical instruction not to engage in discussion of politics or religion. It was and is a good rule, and should be applied to business networking. Then we can get on with business without having our feathers ruffled by some unfortunate comment. Can’t we?

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Online reputations again

Imagine you have spent a long time building your on-line reputation. You have spent years talking to people, befriending them, helping them and building trust. Your network has become a source of advocacy for your character and your business. You are held in the highest esteem.

Then one day, in respect of a relatively trivial matter you lose your temper, you rant, you criticize people and institutions that others in your network greatly respect. In doing so, you cause people in your network to see you in a different light, as an unbalanced, prejudiced crazy person lacking in judgment and sensibility.

Such a thing is inconceivable, an anathema, isn’t it? Yet only yesterday I saw that someone in one of the well-known on-line networks, a member of many of its business groups, had flown into a rage in a discussion on one of the hobby forums. He lambasted his Government’s leaders and its institutions and saw Government complicity and conspiracy in many of the tragedies that had befallen his country. He seemed completely paranoid and unbalanced, so much so that another member of the forum posted that he would never do business with him and would never enter into a discussion with him on any topic. I felt the same way myself as no doubt did many others.

Our reputations are precious things and they can take a long time to build on-line. They are so easily destroyed by careless words. I am not saying we shouldn’t be ourselves on-line. We should not appear false, and we should all endeavor to give what we can. If we do have any unsubstantiated prejudices, though, we really should keep them to ourselves out of respect for our friends, and because we could destroy years of work and ruin our reputations for ever.

© Jon Stow 2010

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On-line reputations and why we should avoid politics

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On-line reputations and why we should avoid politics

In Britain we are fast coming up on a General Election. This is leading to some people getting animated about policy, criticizing politicians they don’t like, and generally displaying their views on-line for all to see. Frankly some of us would rather not see it, especially in the more instant stuff such as Twitter.

In my view it is very unwise to flaunt one’s politics in public. I will admit freely that my business, taxation, is highly political, but if I do talk about the political element it is in the context of the reason for introducing a measure and not about the political philosophy.

It is very easy to get upset about someone’s political views. It may happen that we respect someone and that person’s skills and abilities and would trust them to do a job, so theoretically we should be willing to refer business. However, we are human beings who are sometimes influenced more by emotion than by logic. If we don’t like someone’s politics we may not refer him or her.

In the height of the last US Presidential campaign I un-followed on Twitter quite a number of the more strident individuals whom I thought had it wrong or whose views I found simply distasteful.

Some of you may know that I am a licensed radio amateur, a radio ham if you like. One thing we were all taught when we were studying for our Radio Amateur’s Examination (RAE), was that we should never talk on-air about religion or politics. I think that the on-line business environment is very similar. Those two subjects can upset people more than any other and falling out with our friends over these subjects can do no one any good..

I would recommend that if business people care about their on-line reputations they stay away from politics and do not make provocative comments about politicians, past or present. That way they keep on-side with their network. If they respect our privacy by not inflicting their politics on us, we can respect their private right to their views without anyone getting upset.

© Jon Stow 2010

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