GSI Executive Search Blog

Social Media Do’s and Don’ts for Private Club Professionals

By Dan Farrell, CCM

We live in an era where social media has empowered you and I to broadcast our thoughts freely to family, friends, and potentially millions of other people. There is much that occurs in our everyday lives, and in the world around us. It’s normal to have opinions and often, strong feelings about many subjects—and our very nature as social beings compels us to interact, be part of the conversation and let our ideas be known.

While social media offers positive benefits in many respects for those who engage, it presents fundamental challenges to private club professionals, regardless of job title. As the saying goes, there are no secrets in love and war. Social media posts leave a paper trail – albeit a virtual one – that includes everything you’ve shared on particular platforms. Pictures, memes, videos, quotes, random thoughts, rants, likes and more—it’s all there to be discovered, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

Why does this matter? Three basic reasons:

  1. Taste is subjective, so a joke or photo you shared on Facebook five or 10 years ago that seemed innocent may, for whatever reason, be viewed as tasteless or offensive to others.
  2. An opinion expressed – on politics, race relations, the economy, the world of entertainment, sports, food and beverages, or practically anything else – could conflict with opinions of current or prospective private club employers or colleagues.
  3. The deeper your reservoir of social content, the more prominent it becomes in shaping others’ opinions of you, be they positive or negative. Suddenly, the work history, education and accomplishments detailed on your resume –all the things you worked so hard to attain – aren’t the sole written representation of you as a club professional (and by extension, as a job candidate). They must now compete with the results of a social media presence audit, and consequently, you’ve lost a good measure of control over your personal narrative.

At GSI Executive Search, we conduct job searches for all types of private club positions throughout the country each year, and based on our experience, social media presence audits are now a standard ask on the part of private club Search Committees. If you’re a candidate for a private club job opportunity, you should be aware that, moving forward, your social media presence will in all likelihood be investigated as a normal part of the due diligence process. LinkedIn, the business networking site, is usually the first stop. But thorough checks extend to all primary social platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

What to do? I recommend you follow four basic pieces of advice when it comes to your past, present and future involvement on social media:

  1. Whenever possible, utilize the filters on the social media platforms you use to make your profile, and your posts, private—i.e., limit views to only those in your network. This prevents individuals outside that network from viewing everything you post. One caveat: People in your social platform’s network (for example, Facebook) may also reside within your professional sphere, so you should be comfortable sharing content with everyone in your network. If there’s any question that certain opinions, photos or potential posts could endanger your current or future prospects for employment, refer to piece of advice #2…
  2. Practice serious discretion when posting anything on any social media platform. The private club industry is a people business—it’s built on relationships. Like it or not, your posts could profoundly impact those relationships—and your ability to do your job. Even if dozens of people at your club view your posts and like them, or agree with what you say in them, there will always be people who see things differently, and real problems can ensue as a result. Just be smart and think through the potential ramifications before you click “post.”
  3. Use social media platforms for their intended purpose. On LinkedIn, for example, don’t post pictures of your vacation in Cancun, funny cat videos, or worse. Seemingly innocent tweets or re-tweets live on indefinitely; what took you just seconds to write could cause problems for years.
  4. If you’re an active job candidate and you’ve posted things in the past that you’re not particularly proud of, or could be construed as a black mark by a Search Committee, don’t stay silent and hope they never surface. They will—basic due diligence all but assures it. Rather, be up front with your executive search consultant and let him or her know the details if you’re being considered for a job opportunity. It’s better for your search consultant to be in the know and manage that information proactively than have a bombshell dropped during a formal interview.

One final note: In addition to a social media presence audit, executive search firms and the clubs that retain their services can and will Google your name to see what appears in the search results. Doing so entails nothing beyond simply typing your name into a search box. What they find may or may not be of concern to you, but it’s common practice. Keep in mind: Lawsuits, arrest records and other publicly available information appear online, and likewise, discussion board content from sites beyond the primary social platforms also is cached and often appears in search results. So, an opinion expressed, say five years ago, on a niche website, could likely come up in a simple search of your name.

Again, it comes down to professionalism and common sense. Whether you’re a General Manager, COO, CFO, Executive Chef, Director of Golf or Tennis or any other private club position, you have a responsibility to uphold the high standards of your club, as well as your profession. While that absolutely should not preclude you from using social media, you must be aware that your actions in this realm have consequences. It’s up to you to control access to all of your social feeds to the extent possible, mind your narrative with every post, use social platforms appropriately, and alert recruiters to potentially damaging posts before interviews occur.