Your client’s right to confidentiality doesn’t end just because social networks make linking up with them easy.
Social media has allowed us all to make connections with our fans and followers that weren’t possible before. The nature of these modern networks is that a business can mention anyone and for the world to see that connection.
Mentioning a user on, say Twitter or Facebook, not only becomes public, but also hyperlinks to their profile or account.
But are businesses casting morals aside by making mentions they shouldn’t?
My gut feeling has always been that, in general, it’s OK to mention a supplier, but not a client.
Why? Client confidentiality should be the first consideration when mentioning people you’re working with. There’s no such thing as ‘supplier confidentiality’ except that some might not want to give away who their suppliers are. Publicising work you’re doing for somebody could be embarrassing for them, and it should really be up to them to decide if the relationship be broadcast. Would you be happy for Tesco to tweet that they’ve helped you find the ‘Head and Shoulders’ in your local branch?
Of course there’s nothing wrong with communicating with a client, and engagement should be encouraged, but should you be announcing how you’re going to be working together before you even have? I don’t think so. That’s the client’s prerogative.
Let’s ask Twitter
I wanted to see what others thought, so I asked Twitter, and the responses said it all:
@Susie_H Not if you hoping to keep them as a client.
— John Messingham (@johnmessingham) April 13, 2013
@Susie_H Not without permission. Law Society regulations rightly protect client confidentiality.
— Peter Mason (@thehouseguy28) April 13, 2013
@Susie_H I would have thought no.Sometimes even with permission.then discreetly avoiding naming client/project.Interest shown may be useful.
— Pearl Hamilton (@PEARLSPetCare) April 13, 2013
@Susie_H No, I don't think I would like that
— Mary Jean (@MaryJeanUK) April 13, 2013
@Susie_H Even if doing so was legal it would damage your reputation and people would no longer trust you.
— P.O.S. (@PerthshireOS) April 13, 2013
Just as I thought.
Nobody responded that it was OK, yet I see it happening every day.
If a client is happy for you to mention them, or mentions your relationship first, then clearly that is OK, but imagine the client who has engaged you, particularly for a service that will increase your advantage over a competitor, you could be giving away too much information.
Some companies pay handsomely for ‘corporate espionage’ to help them find out what their competitors are doing and who they’re working with.
Well, there’s no need if they’re feeding you their client list through Twitter, particularly if they’re adding what services and products they’re using.
If that information is good publicity, they can broadcast their relationship with you as a supplier, or ask for permission.
But isn’t social media all about making connections?
Of course it is, but businesses shouldn’t abandon their moral fibre for just for their own gain, and if you analyse such a connection, that’s exactly what it’s about.
Mentioning a client doesn’t give them any more credibility because their working with you. You’re more likely to be doing it because you think it will make you look busy, or annoy your competitors.
Both of those are well-known marketing techniques, but neither should be done at your client’s expense.