Jun 5, 2012

Are You Working With The Mayor Of Porntown?

A strange question hit me on Sunday. Are professionals dumb enough to check into strip clubs on FourSquare or Facebook?

The thought hit me while listening to Spark on CBC Radio. Nora Young was interviewing Justin Cranshaw of The Livehoods Project on how he is profiling the culture and lifestyle of cities using data from FourSquare and Instagram. Livehoods creates maps based on social check-ins to show how people actually use their environments.

Near the end of the interview Justin revealed their maps are skewed, because of the profile of users on FourSquare and Instagram. He said, “The population who use FourSquare are characterized as younger professionals and college students.” Justin goes onto explain, “There’s also biases associated with the types of places people typically check into or share publicly. These tend to be more biased to commercial venues or main public attractions. People don’t typically tend to check into places that they don’t want others to see them at.

And that last statement was the ‘a-ha’ moment. Is that true? Do professionals avoid checking into seedy places like strip clubs? I had to know.

I hopped onto FourSquare and looked up some of the big strip clubs in Toronto, and sure enough each had a Mayor. A Mayor is a badge used on FourSquare to indicate who has visited an establishment the most times in the past 60 days. What I found even more shocking is several of the Mayors were young professionals with links to their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Without too much effort I could look them up, see their Twitter feeds and even do a quick search to learn more about their careers on LinkedIn.

The other shocker was the Mayors did not appear to be members of the adult entertainment industry. They were average dudes with average jobs, and these just happened to be some of the venues they frequented.

I’m not making a value judgment on strip clubs, adult entertainment or anyone who visits these places. I don’t care. I just wanted to see if this should lead to a social media policy topic for my company. And the answer is you bet!

What employees do on their own time is their business. I don’t need to know. But when their ‘social’ lives collide with their professional lives it can be problematic. The nature of Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, Instagram, Pinterest and even Google+ is they let us share moments in our lives very easily. We are encouraged to share comments, pictures and even videos from our phones. The problem is the default setting for most of these sites is ‘public.’ All the world can see these updates.

I’ve heard plenty of parents warn their college kids about what they share online, and the ramifications that a few questionable posts could have later in life. But adults need to hear the same advice. What you share online can come back to haunt you!

As an employer, set social media guidelines for your company. Not punitive or restrictive ones. Just straightforward language on what is inappropriate and the types of behavior you don’t want associated with your brand. If having an employee who is the Mayor of Porntown is a problem for your brand then make sure your staff knows it. Provide documentation on how to set personal privacy settings, and let people know what you don’t want to blow back into the professional world.

It may seem like babysitting, but sometimes people are dumb.

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