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Image of Social Media foursquare using social media on the road while traveling for business or pleasure can be a lot of fun. We are able to report and record our experiences as they happen like never before. However, when you’re a business traveler, there are many guidelines – for confidentiality, safety and general common sense – which you should consider.

Social media can cost you your job

Most social media users have read articles on how your posts and updates could cost you your job. Of course, most of these guidelines focus on not using social media while you’re supposed to be working or not posting negative comments about your boss, co-workers or work environment.

These guidelines are basic common sense and apply to social media use overall; whether you’re a road warrior or work in a cube farm. But what about use that’s specific to business travel?

If you travel for business, you are probably making sales calls or visiting current clients. Whether or not you have a non-disclosure agreement with these companies, you should always act as if you do; especially on social media.

A few questions came to mind:

Does this person’s company not have any competitors who might be interested in how they are hoping to branch out?

Isn’t this person worried that the company that may be a “big sales opportunity” might see this post and back away?

Did this person compound the problem by allowing Foursquare to also post to other connected networks such as Facebook or Twitter?

In another instance, a Facebook user posted a photo of a product in a factory setting with the comment: “Look what our client (Company X) is making today!”

Now, this post might be completely legit, but only if Company X authorized the user to post the image. Otherwise, most companies would not be pleased that someone from an agency acting on their behalf posted a photo of their operation from the inside without their permission.

Getting back to using common sense

The aforementioned articles talk about how you can lose your job by what you post on social media about your company, co-workers, boss, work environment, etc. But what about what you say about your clients and customers?

Out of curiosity, I clicked on the user’s profile and, sure enough, it listed the company at which they worked. For the user’s sake, I hoped that neither their co-workers, boss or clients were following them on Twitter. Why do I say this?

Pretend for a moment that you hired an advertising agency to represent your company and you followed several people from that agency on a social media network. Even though it was a difficult day meeting with the ad people brainstorming about a new campaign, you come back to your office feeling good about the direction you are heading. That is, until you read the message above in the social space from someone representing the ad agency. How would you feel? Would you feel confident moving forward on a project with a company who has labeled you a “pain in the &?!@ client” in public? Probably not.

Just like it’s important to use common sense in the office, it’s perhaps even more crucial to use it when you’re on the road. Besides avoiding a compromise in confidentiality with your clients, there is also a safety issue to consider.

Be safe and not stupid

When using geolocation services, there are many business reasons you may want to be discreet about your location; but there are also some safety reasons. Unfortunately, we have to remember that we live in a world where business travelers – or vacationers for that matter – may be considered vulnerable to crime. We usually aren’t that familiar with our surroundings when we are traveling. That can easily make us targets if we don’t keep our eyes and ears open and use a little common sense.

When it comes to safe social media use, the best advice we have is to be extremely careful with geolocation apps. It probably isn’t the smartest idea to check in on Foursquare at the hotel at which you are staying; especially if you are traveling alone. If you feel like you must check in via an app, don’t do it during your stay. Do it the morning you check out. Besides being safer, this also allows you to comment on your experience or leave other travelers a tip about the venue.

We aren’t saying no to social media

Please understand that we aren’t saying to use social media on the road for business or pleasure. There are many great ways to share your experiences on the networks. But being discreet is sometimes the best way to go. If you’re not sure if you should post an update, then the safest and smartest thing to do is not to post it. That decision could save you your job, your client and – in extreme cases – your well-being.