INDIANAPOLIS – Sam Richter is glad social media and the 24/7 news cycle didn’t exist when he was in college.
Richter played football at the University of Minnesota in the mid-1980s under Hall of Fame coach Lou Holtz, who often reminded his players of his 32 rules for remaining on the team.
“He’d say something like this: ‘I’m not going to tell you what those rules are, but if you screw any of them up, you’re gone,’” recalled Richter, who provided the keynote “Don’t Steal the Cheesecake” at STN EXPO Indianapolis on Sunday. “Bottom line: don’t embarrass the team.”
Had he played in the current era, just imagine the fallout of waking up one morning following a house party, where he drank what the seniors on his team said was pink lemonade, naked in a fountain with a cheesecake, hence the title of his talk. That is because the exact scenario played out for Richter, who escaped any major embarrassment because, as he recalled, no one in the local media at the time cared because he wasn’t a Heisman Trophy winner.
“Today, I’d be a YouTube sensation,” he added. “And everything in my life would have changed.”
Likely not for the better, either, as Richter is now a digital reputation expert, author and founder of the Know More sales and business improvement program, which uses search engines like Google combined with social media including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and other Web-based resources as intelligence gathering and reputation management tools.
As Transportation Director Summit participants learned in-depth on Saturday, Richter’s tools can be invaluable in identifying job opportunities, learning information about current and prospective employees, and researching potential business partners and customers. On Sunday afternoon, Richter shared to the larger STN EXPO audience the potential perils of social media and the internet, sharing several embarrassing, high-profile examples that have resulted in loss of jobs or worse.
Everyone has a brand but different than that of companies like Geico or Nike. While product brands convey a promise of trust in the delivery of an experience, personal brands are how people are perceived by others, for example, the promise of what will be experienced working with them.
“You all have one whether you like it or not,” Richter noted.
A personal brand has two components, one’s character and one’s reputation. The first is who the person is, as defined by their morals, ethics and values. And character is 100 percent controlled by the person.
The latter is how others perceive the person, and Richter cautioned that reputation is 100 percent out of our control. Even scarier, often with social media people we don’t even know have control over our reputations.
“You can spend a lifetime building your character, but it takes one incident to ruin it,” he explained. “You could really screw up in the 1980s, and no one knew about it. Today is different. Everyone has the ability to be famous or infamous.”
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Richter then provided attendees with his five laws of digital reputation management, or DRM. He provided advice on the types of social media posts to abstain from, such as announcing vacation, or any other extended period of time away from home when burglars could target your place. He also advised keeping cool in times of stress, as one never knows when the record button is activated.
Richter also said 70 percent of companies check social media sites when hiring, so be careful about what you post. “Speech is free but can have damaging consequences,” he noted.
He also said research shows no one’s political views are changed by a social media post, pay particular attention to how your business brand is communicated, and ultimately be careful when posting anything online.
“In the online world, you own your own content, but when you hit send, you lose all distribution rights,” he said, adding that any Twitter post remains forever searchable unless deleted, and even then, screen shots may exist. “Save yourself. Think before you post.”