Some time back, there were helpful blog posts and articles in media on how not to use social media. One of the caveats was about how we’re not supposed to share information that we will not share in real life – the joke was, ‘Never share anything that you’d not share with your mother, priest and lawyer’…or something along those lines.

Let me add on to it – would you tweet or blog about your client?

This is more appropriate for folks in public relations and advertising (and other client servicing industries). While we all tweet and blog about our negative experiences about brands, do we take adequate precaution before sharing something like that about a client or even a potential client with whom we’re discussing business?

Should we, or should we not crib about a client/potential client?

If my blog (or twitter feed) is to be treated like a media source (assuming!), would I be happy if my morning newspaper doesn’t report something bad from an advertising partner?

Is that the kind of relationship I share with my readers (on any social network – ignore personal discussions)?

There are varying levels of information here,

1. There can be information that is negative – a client or a potential client may have bungled on service or product quality
2. Withholding information – I know that a client or a potential client is up to something that is not necessarily in the interest of consumers (I’m one too?) and I do not share that information
3. There can be information that should be communicated only by the client, first – this could be termed as material information and here, it is obvious that a vendor should not be sharing this at all, under any circumstance.

The issue is when I, as a consumer, more than a vendor, get affected by either 1, or 2. For example, if I’m in advertising, and servicing an airline brand…if I get horrendously delayed by my client’s flight, should I tweet or blog about it, expressing my displeasure? I’m fairly certain of it’s repercussions, particularly when I know that the client has a team tracking the social media space for conversations about them. Worse, I myself could be the vendor handling their social media listening program.

Then, if I have a auto brand as a client and I come to know that a particular model of vehicle is slated to be phased out starting a particular date – and I know that there are a quite a few people on my twitter timeline who are planning to buy that model because of the recent price cuts (in preparation of the phasing out that is not yet communicated explicitly). What is my obligation, as a blogger/content creator/tweeter…more than a vendor servicing a client?

Now, put these instances in real life.

I’d obviously come home late from that delayed flight and crib to my wife and perhaps my friend in office/apartment. Verbally. It doesn’t travel much.

If I knew some friend, personally, planning to buy that to-be-phased model, I’d ask him to wait, by explaining the reason. Verbally. It doesn’t travel much, technically, but that friend could pass it on and depending on how influential he is, it could spread – the unnamed source could be me!

So, what are the rules here?

Personally, I have not declared in my blog and twitter profile that I’ll share nothing but the truth. I have not declared that I will not lie, but that doesn’t mean all my tweets and blog posts are a lie. I do not consider the relation between me (as a blogger or a twitter user) and my readers (followers on twitter and blog readers) as that between a magazine and it’s reader – but again, things do go grey when you have advertising on your blog. What if you have sold space on your blog for a particular brand of car and you write only positive things about it? There is an auto-correction mechanism and people could figure that out, but more often than not, it doesn’t happen as fast or as smooth.

From my perspective, if I tweet about a client (for something that went wrong) and the client asks me not to, I wouldn’t think twice before stopping such tweets – more than a content creator, shouldn’t I be bothered more about my welfare?

Think about it – if you’re in PR and are handling contentious clients (like BP, maybe?), what will you do, if a media guy on twitter is asking for your personal opinion about something your client has bungled? It impacts you too, as an individual, more than a vendor. You’re bound to safeguard or improve the reputation of your client, but could have a conflicting opinion about them, within yourself.

With us getting more vocal online, this conflict is bound to magnify. Earlier, all you could do was perhaps request yourself out of that client since you do not believe in them and cannot justify within you of handling their image. But now, you have a life far beyond your immediate comfort zone of home/office/weekend pub, thanks to social media.

What will you do? I only have some hazy answers above, so feel free to comment.

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