It seems like everyday there is another person highlighted in the news or social media for some action they took that has had significant consequences to their business and life. From #Cecilthelion and Walter Palmer, here are some important takeaways and reminders for everyone in this new digital age where things can happen faster than you can say “I’m sorry’.

1. Boundaries are Thin at BestMany people still believe that their Facebook page, Twitter feed, and websites used for personal use are off limits when it comes to impacting your professional life. This is clearly no longer the case. In fact most recruiters Google you before they ever read through your resume. Whatever is public and online is fair game for people to use when they make decisions about you.

2. You Can Build Some Boundaries 

Recently I gave a talk to a group of rising college seniors at the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and this question came up: “Should you be friends with your boss on Facebook, etc.?”. The answer is it is up to you, but clearly you mitigate risk to some degree if you create boundaries to separate your personal and professional life. Connecting with professionals on LinkedIn makes perfect sense, other channels can create problems depending on what you are sharing.

3. Be Intentional About Your Reputation

Whether you are 15 or 80, it is important to think about the reputation you are trying to build and only share content that supports your values and story. One suggestion is to pick your top 3-4 topics (for me it is personal brand, entrepreneurs, women & millennials), and stay within that space. Very rarely do I post personal content given privacy concerns. In addition, if I have a framework (3-4 topics) than it guides me as to what not to post (which can be just as important). It is critical to have a clear and consistent message as you build your in person and digital story.

4. Be Provocative, not Polarizing (and definitely not illegal)

In the case of #Cecilthelion, Walter Palmer clearly made a lot of bad decisions that came together and destroyed his personal and professional life. It is important to understand that if you are going to share content, be clear on who is going to be mad, happy, or not care. Know your audience and think ahead to understand the potential consequences. In this case, posting photos that were so polarizing and doing something that was illegal, clearly destroyed his personal and professional reputation in a heart beat. There are plenty of examples where people have posted commentary that cost them their job, whether or not it should have cost them there job is a different discussion. The digital jury can react very quickly and force a company to make a decision that in the past they may not have made.

5. If You Mess Up, Apologize and Make It Right

We all mess up at some point, or many points, in our life. Recovery is critical. How can you make it right and who do you need to apologize to, and what does an authentic apology look like? In the case of Palmer, he came out very late with his apology and it did not come across as authentic. Because he had been in trouble hunting before, it is hard to take him at his word. Now, could he come out and be a poster child for stopping illegal hunting as well as donate money to the park in Zimbabwe and Oxford University, yes. But even so, this series of poor decision making will follow up the rest of his life. Social media may move on to the next topic, but every year on World Lion Day, you can bet that his name will come up.

In this day and age of social media, it is a fine dance of what is too much and what is too little. To be relevant, you have to have some digital presence, and yet the more you put yourself out there, the more you create opportunities to make mistakes. That said, if you plan your message, create rules around how to operate, you can post meaningful content and manage to build your reputation too.

Be your best self,
Jen Dalton

*Read more in this HLN article*Watch our segment on HLN.