The social-networking phenomenon is creating jobs in the auto industry.
That's because auto makers and dealers are hiring folks and firms to write blogs, chat online, post tweets and keep Facebook pages engaging and fresh.
It's a wonderful way for businesses to connect with customers, especially young ones, and to keep them informed, even entertained.
But those hired to be hip online run a risk. Get too irreverent and you'll be making a beeline to the unemployment office.
It is not “anything goes,” although the Internet can lure some innocents into thinking the web's www stands for “wild, wacky world.” But when business is involved, especially the often-conservative business of selling cars, intemperate types need not apply.
Offline, it's possible to goof up at work, discover the error and fix it before it becomes a big deal. Online, mistakes quickly become public and potentially hazardous to your wealth as a wage earner.
The auto industry has fallen in love with social media. Ford arguably leads the pack with its unconventional online marketing efforts, from contests to submit-your-video initiatives.
Other auto makers are getting more involved. So are dealers.
Internet-marketing expert Ralph Paglia recommends dealerships get everybody in the store involved in social media. That way, the task of churning content doesn't land on one person.
If a dealership or any business encourages staffers to communally blog, tweet and post at will, sense and sensibility should prevail. Sure, a bit of irreverence here and there can work. After all, no one wants to read blogs that resemble dry disquisitions.
But ground rules are needed, perhaps even a screening process of potential posts. Otherwise, people can embarrass themselves and their employers.
Journalism has a time-tested process. It's called editing. Virtually every journalist gets edited. It is done in an attempt to ensure stories are readable, concise, accurate and fair.
Dealers dabbling in social media needn't retain the services of professional editors to screen potential social-media content. But someone of a mature nature should look stuff over before it is posted. Otherwise, the soft boiled eggs can hit the fan.
Chrysler became irked recently when an employee of a marketing company the auto maker had hired for social-networking work got too expressive.
Driving in Detroit, he became frustrated and tweeted, “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to (expletive) drive.”
Apparently, he didn't mean for that to go through @ChryslerAutos, but it did.
As a lifelong resident of metro Detroit, I agree with him. We harbor some lousy drivers.
They evidently think 70 mph speed limit signs contain a hidden message, saying, “Feel free to go 15-20 mph faster.”
Then there's the hometown favorite of tailgating. Detroiters do it casually. A visiting magazine publisher from Houston told me, “In Texas, if you drive that close to the person in front of you, you're sending a message, and it's not a nice one.”
That tweeting Chrysler representative's problem was a lack of judgment, not accuracy. Because of social media, his indiscretion became a very public gaffe. And Chrysler was not amused.
The guy got axed. Then Chrysler killed its contract with his former employer. That put 20 other people out of work.
Social media is wildly popular, but that doesn't mean it is the new wild West of communications.
It is a great way to reach customers. Yet, it is unforgiving. Unlike cars, there are no recalls to fix mistakes. Remember that before clicking “send,” particularly on behalf of your employer.