Behaviors overrule disclaimers

Estimated read time: 3 minutes

We’ve seen the disclaimers:

  • All Tweets are my own.
  • Tweets do not represent my employer’s view.
  • RTs are not endorsements.
  • Following somebody isn’t an endorsement.

I’ve even seen some people link to additional pages of disclaimers. I’m sure they will be read as often as those Terms and Conditions many of us accept in a second and a half.

So, do all these disclaimers mean or do anything? Well, they cover us when we say something that our boss, or whomever, disagrees with maybe…

But ultimately, all those disclaimers can’t prevent offline consequences for online behaviors and most people reading updates likely don’t even remember them. Plus, they take up valuable space to share other more relevant information about you and what you are talking about on a particular social media network.

Personally, I don’t include any of those disclaimers in my bios. I Tweet them every once in a while, mostly tongue in cheek, but it is kind of a reminder for around four minutes. Exactly!

About RTs not being endorsements … I learned that people aren’t differentiating between unique and curated content in a stream. People offline continued saying to me that they “love the stuff I write online.”

At that point, I wasn’t blogging much and was mostly sharing other people’s stories. People took other people’s stories as my stories – despite me never saying that they were.

Disclaimers might be needed from a legal perspective. Maybe. And there are some things that some believe cannot be revealed publicly – like trade secrets, etc.

But if nobody reads them or believes them what’s the point? Are they helping authentic discussion?

Let’s pick on this disclaimer: “Tweets are my own, not my employers.”

What does that allow me to do?

  • Rip on a business partner? (I wouldn’t advise that.)
  • Rip on the company or co-workers? (That wouldn’t help morale, now would it.)

And what if I say things and connect with people who might be beneficial to my company? Because I had that little disclaimer, does that mean it’s my personal relationship – rather than on behalf of the company’s? I doubt that the company wouldn’t appreciate the additional business.

It’s always interesting when CEOs put this disclaimer on their profiles, because, I’m sure people reading along will totally see the CEO as an unaffiliated party to his or her company. Right.

This reminds of me of a sheriff whom I worked with a few years ago. Sheriffs in Iowa are law enforcement officers but are elected. He said to me:

“I campaign while on the job.”

“Really, how come?”

“I’m always on the job – even during off hours. Plus, people see me as the sheriff – even when I’m out for dinner.”

Bingo. The line is hard to draw – especially the higher people are in an organization, the harder it will be for the public to buy that there’s a difference between the off-duty and on-duty CEO.

Disclaimers also can imply that people might say something wrong. What does that even mean?

Something is factually wrong? OK, that can be corrected.

Or maybe it’s something that the powers-that-be disagree with. That’s an entirely different discussion. What’s wrong with allowing different opinions? Hello, this is the Participation Age afterall.

Or perhaps what was shared is just offensive. This can happen when people try to be funny. Funny writing is hard. Funny writing that aligns with somebody’s professional position is even harder. People get fired for this. Usually, this is what folks get fired for.

What’s better than disclaimers, you ask? Have a discussion with folks about social media and help them use it in the most meaningful way to them, their company and their community.