Always Use Good Judgment Online

A recent incident at the website of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers an excellent reminder for real estate professionals.

First, the background story:  ReadWriteWeb reports that an employee at a St. Louis area school lost his job for repeatedly posting vulgar comments on the newspaper’s website.  The employee assumed his comments were posted anonymously.  Meanwhile, the social media director at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch traced the IP address of the poster to a local school and contact the school’s administrator, assuming the comments had been posted by a student.  Not so.  The commenter was an adult employee at the school who was immediately fired.

People posting on the Internet often get confused and think that no one will ever know who they are.  Or, even when their identity is well known—as when they’re posting on their own blogs—they think only a handful of their closest associates will ever see their comments.  Neither of these things is necessarily true.  Therefore, whenever you post something to the Internet, it’s important to use good judgment.

For real estate professionals that means:

  1. Be Kind to People You’re Working With.  Never write in an unflattering way about a client, another agent, another agent’s client, or anyone else involved in a transaction.
  2. Be Kind to People You Don’t Know. Never make fun of a seller or a property you’ve seen, no matter how ridiculous the offer or the property seems to you.
  3. Be Aware of Your Duty to Maintain Confidentiality.  Never disclose any details about a transaction.
  4. Think Before You Type.  Never put anything in a blog post, in a comment, in an e-mail, or in any other electronic format that you might regret later.  Once you hit the enter button, you can’t really ever take it back.
  5. Remember that the Internet Never Forgets. Deleting or removing a post doesn’t necessarily get rid of it.  Websites are often cached or archived so that deleted comments can still be searched and found.
  6. Assume That What You’re Writing Will Be Read by Millions. Always write as if your words will be seen by people beyond your intended audience.  Readers can link to your comments or forward them to others.  Search engines can often find what you’ve written.  Comments posted to sites like Twitter can be seen by everyone everywhere.
  7. Know that You’re Not Really Anonymous. Few people are really anonymous on the Internet.  Comments and e-mails can be traced by people who know how.
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