The ability to read another person’s mind has been a fixture in popular movies and books for at least a century.  Characters like mutants, aliens, vampires and mad scientists are usually portrayed using this power for evil.  People are rightly uneasy with the notion of having their most intimate thoughts plucked from their minds and exposed for others to see.  Likewise, you can understand how these inner-most-thoughts could easily be exploited.  I would like to inform you that a mind-reading device was invented over a decade ago and its use has recently exploded in the last 5 years.  Stalkers, news organizations, global corporations and even the government have access to this device and will use it on you if you are not careful.  Strangely, the device of which I speak does not extract thoughts through compulsory means, but rather, individuals reveal their thoughts voluntarily.

Twitter, Facebook, and to a lesser extent LinkedIn, are broadcasting our collective thoughts 24 hours a day.  I find it funny, and at times disturbing, how often I see news of a celebrity apologizing for some Tweet they posted while tired or utterly inebriated.  It’s even more unbelievable when they are perfectly coherent.  Does your iPhone need a breathalyzer? Do we need a driver’s license for social media?  Maybe not, but your company does need a solid policy for social media.

We all have crazy thoughts, but some people just can’t keep them to themselves.  In the past, this would have only caused an awkward moment at a social gathering, but today, thousands of people will know about these unfiltered thoughts in a matter of seconds.  This poses a huge risk for your company.  Your hard-earned reputation could go down the tubes because of an off-color joke or socially insensitive remark carelessly posted by one of your employees to all his followers.

It’s obvious that anything coming from the official company account needs to checked an rechecked before it gets posted.  This type of work should not be pawned off on the volunteer intern.  This is your company’s image and you should take great care in making sure it’s correct.  There are tools available that will delay a social media post for a predetermined amount of time just in case you want to retract your words before its too late.

What your employees post in their personal time is an entirely different beast.  Your policy on such behavior should be clear.  There are many legal and privacy questions around this subject.  Many companies have policies that limit what high profile employees can say on their personal accounts.  Some companies even state that their executives are not to have personal social media accounts at all.  The bottom line is that you need to mitigate this risk to your company by implementing a policy that makes sense for your industry, your business and your customers.  Once something hits the Internet it is impossible to erase it.