Your Social Media Disclaimer Will Fail You
February 19, 2015

Your Social Media Disclaimer Will Fail You

by Keith Brown

Several years ago I was preparing to interview Nick (name changed), a promising candidate. We had an opening for a content manager and social media skills were near the top of the list. Unfortunately, during my preparation, a quick Google search of Nick’s first and last name revealed several drunken tweets and one very crude blog post on Tumblr.

You may think that your personal social media accounts are not part of your resume, but that’s no longer true. We now live in a world where one social media slip-up can alter a company’s reputation forever.

So what happened to Nick? I promptly called our technical recruiter and told her that we were going in another direction with our search. Unfortunately for Nick, it was a red flag I could not ignore.

Many reputable companies see these same risks and insist on employees using social media disclaimers as protection. This is their way of making employees “responsible” for what they post online. If your public profiles discuss work at all, they must include the statement, “Views are my own” — right?

Some argue that disclaimers are an essential safeguard; others say they are useless. I would go a step further and argue that such disclaimers are actually dangerous. This is why we ask Aha! employees to remove them.

Just ask these 10 people that CNN profiled recently. They were fired due to social media posts on their personal accounts. Disclaimers create a false sense of reality. If our behavior — either online or off — is deemed harmful to our company’s brand, we will be held responsible for what is said or written.

Be aware that if your statements embarrass or harm your company, you risk losing your job. “Views are my own” will not protect you.

Still not convinced? Consider these three reasons why disclaimers do not work:

People associate you with your employer What you say and do directly affects your employer’s reputation. In today’s hyper-connected era, there is no separation between work and play. A quick Google search will turn up where you work — and associate your poor judgment with your employer. It is unfair and uncomfortable to put your employer in that position.

They offer no meaningful legal protection Whether your bio warns that “views are my own” or that “RTs aren’t endorsements,” social media disclaimers will not save you when your words are questionable. “It certainly doesn’t have any legal effect,” says Dan Schaeffer, an attorney who focuses on intellectual property law. “It’s not going to prevent your employer from firing you if you say something that reflects badly, and it’s not going to prevent people from associating your views with your employer.”

Most people will ignore them Should your offensive statement gain a wide audience, most readers will see it as a standalone statement. They will never click through to your profile to see your biography and disclaimer. Even if they do, saying that your views are your own does not preclude readers from being offended.

If companies want to protect themselves from what employees say on social media, a far better solution is to implement proper training and clearly communicate their expectations.

It is no secret that social media has blurred personal and professional lines. If you are a full-time employee, all online actions reflect on your company.

Your LinkedIn headline, Twitter bio, and blog posts all point back to who you are and where you work. The next time you think a disclaimer will save you — strongly consider keeping your “views” to yourself.

Are “your views your own?”

Keith Brown

Keith Brown

Keith was a vice president of marketing at Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software.

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