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A Guide to Not Screwing Yourself Over on Social Media If You Work in Fashion

Snapchat could be your downfall.
We're sure Kendall and Kylie are following the rules. Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

We're sure Kendall and Kylie are following the rules. Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Welcome to Career Week! While we always make career-focused content a priority on Fashionista, we thought spring would be a good time to give you an extra helping of tips and tricks on how to make it in the fashion industry.

With the fashion industry growing increasingly comfortable with all forms of social media, it may feel like a bit of the professional stigma has dissipated. No longer do we need to add "Tweets are my own!" disclaimers to our bios or filter our every thought. But while employers may have accepted that a social presence can be a valuable tool (more on that later this week), and that "personal brands" can be valuable assets, there's still the possibility of committing a serious mistake on social media that can throw your whole career into question.

"I think people forget that they themselves are always, to some degree, their own brand, and they're constantly representing themselves; it's a shame, but that's how it is," says social media strategist Cannon Tekstar.

With that in mind, we spoke to a few social media experts in the fashion industry about the land mines you should still be avoiding on your social media accounts, no matter where they might be. 

Snapchat Isn't a Safe Place

Pretty much everyone we spoke to for this story mentioned Snapchat as a place that gets people into the most trouble, and it's not hard to see why: Not unlike the teens who figured out that their sexts were not, in fact, instantly deleted; grown professionals seem to forget that just because the image only lasts for five seconds, it doesn't mean that it never happened. 

"I think people think that the images [on Snapchat] are fleeting, that it's a safe place, and it's really not," says Aliza Licht, a digital strategic consultant (and formerly the voice behind popular Twitter account @DKNYPRGirl). "If you have a really large following, and you're not really closely paying attention to who's following you, it could be your boss."

Your Instagram Is Probably Fine

People rarely gaffe on Instagram because they're carefully curating it; thus posts are less off-the-cuff. "I feel like people on Instagram are so obsessed with getting likes or followers that they don't use that to be particularly snarky," says Tekstar. "People who are on Instagram are there to build their personal brand."

Your Subtweets Are Not as Clever as You Think

Ah, the subtweet, a favorite of the fashion set. You tweet something witty in a way just vague enough for plausible deniability and pat yourself on the back when no one sorts out the subject. It's the perfect way to get the satisfaction of venting without the repercussions. But it may be time to retire this catty mainstay.

"You always know who it's about!" Licht says with a laugh. "When you see someone subtweet, someone else who knows what that person is talking about will always chime in. The combination of those two, if you know those two people, you can kind of sort out through association who they're talking about."

Being Private Really Doesn't Make a Difference

Generally speaking, you're probably a little freer with a locked account across platforms, but it's not foolproof: Someone who is following you can easily screenshot it and make it public. Which brings us to... 

You Can't Delete a Screenshot

"The screenshot is more powerful than the delete button," Licht says. You may experience regret in a few hours and delete your Tweet or remove something from your Snapchat story, but if someone has screenshot it, there's nothing you can do.

Disclaimers Are Meaningless

While those "Tweets are my own"/"This does not reflect the opinions of my employer" disclaimers may seem a little outdated, they really don't matter regardless. "People don't realize once they land that job that they are representing the brand that they work for, and what they do on social media can affect that brand negatively," Licht says.

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Be Discreet About Gifts

Even if you receive a gift that you would never in a million years use from a brand you never work with, you should never put that brand on blast (duh). PR agencies often rep more than one brand, and if they think you're an asshole about a freebie, they may strike you from all their lists — and more importantly, you look like a jerk. Don't forget, people change jobs all the time, and they'll remember bad behavior.

Also, if you're going to pass along a gift that was originally sent to you to someone else, ask them not to social the item. "I get it, especially in the editorial community; you're receiving a ton of gifts and maybe you're not going to wear everything," says a PR person who wished to remain anonymous. "But if you're going to get something and not wear it but give it away, maybe just tell that person to keep it on the DL."

It should go without saying that you should never trash-talk your boss, whether that's at a full-time job or an editor who handles your freelance work. It should also go without saying that you should never publicly put down or mock a client if you work at an agency. What's trickier to navigate are the "unfiltered" spaces within the workplace. "I think the more staggering examples [of social media mistakes] are quote unquote professional people who are really showing a side of their working world that they shouldn't be showing," Licht says.

Never forget the J.Crew employees who lost their jobs after Instagramming a celebratory night out when they "survived" a round of layoffs that affected their coworkers.

Depending on your job, your employer might also not appreciate anything documenting procedural things, like putting together a fashion show, working with a celebrity client or the chaos of a casting call. "There's obviously a certain image that is put forth, and we don't need someone like Conde Nast Elevator," the anonymous PR explains. "We don't need a behind the scenes action of the agency being put out there to the world; that's not something that's going to attract clients, that won't keep us reputable in the community."

If You're Going to Lie About Where You Are, Hide the Evidence

We've all been there: You RSVP "yes" to an event, and when the night comes, you just don't feel like going out (or, it happens, get a better offer). Steer clear of social in these situations.

"Let's say you're doing a dinner, and you've accounted for those people and you've paid for it and everything is going swimmingly, and they're not showing up!" says the anon PR. "So you follow up to ask if they're coming, and you get the email like, 'Still at work!' Then you go to Snapchat five seconds later, and they're not at work — so come up with a better excuse or just tell the truth and say you can't come." 

Out partying all night? Your social media can prove your guilt the next day when you're hungover and "call out sick," as was the case for one of Tekstar's former interns. "I'd known the night before that he was at a Paper Magazine party, and that he was actually hungover, because he had been tweeting about it and was tweeting about being hungover," she says.

Think Before You Post, Always

This goes for any form of social media, but also email, Slack and any other online form of communication: Think about everything twice. "[Social media] can be used to create incredible careers but it can also be used to destroy it," says Tekstar

The best example of social media gone awry is that of Justine Sacco, former senior director of corporate communications at IAC. Her name might not ring a bell, but her now-infamous tweet will: "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!" Sacco turned off her phone for the duration of her 11-hour flight, probably not thinking twice about a careless joke fired off to her meager 170 followers. 

Of course, what happened next made international news. Sacco's tweet somehow went viral in a way most marketing managers only dream of and Sacco's dumb stab at humor ultimately saw her fired and publicly humiliated. Nothing could save her: Despite deleting the tweet and the account, screenshots — and in this case, her headline-grabbing reputation — live forever.

The implications are clear across all professional fields: No matter what precautions you take, your social media presence always has the potential to be the smoking gun that ends your career. It's better to be safe than sorry. Licht put it best: "If you think of your social media profile as an extension of your professional existence, then you'll create a filter which will steer you along a better path than if you think it's just your personal playground."

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