Seems my last article caused a little bit of a kerfuffle, as one or two people thought I was decrying the merits of that modern-day panacea to everything in business, social networking.

The good news for me is it shows someone is actually reading this stuff. That’s always good to know, and also means I’ve got a couple of new friends - hello Twig and Jenny! But hopefully most people picked up that I wasn’t against social media per se. Far from it.

I’m a salesman, so I love anything that can get information about me and my business out to as many people as possible, as effectively as possible and as quickly as possible. But I was talking about individuals, not products, and trying to contextualise things in relation to how people use social media to manage their careers in particular, how a lack of focus and clarity in how they go about it might affect their reputations.

Recently, we’ve had reports in the sports pages again of a ‘lost in translation’ episode. While talking to the media back home, an overseas footballer appeared to be critical about one of his colleagues in the UK. Somehow, people seem to forget that there are many here who can read Spanish, French, Italian, etc. It’s as if they’re in a bubble, oblivious to the rest of us.

And a similar thing seems to happen to some people on social media sites. They forget it’s effectively an open forum. Even if it’s just your friends you talk to, isn’t the whole point of social media that it’s social? Your friends have contacts who aren’t your friends, who themselves talk to other contacts. Ultimately, you don’t really control where that ‘funny’ comment about your boss, colleague or competitor ends up.

As a young salesman I was always told that if you had a problem with a customer you should go and talk to them, never get yourself in a strop and never put down anything in writing that might be unearthed by someone going through a filing cabinet a year or so later. Well, the medium has moved on since then, but the fundamentals still apply. If you wouldn’t put it on your CV, don’t put it out there! After all, that’s effectively what a well-thought-out, well-managed social media profile should be: a working, live CV, a catalogue of material you’d be happy for any prospective employer or recruiter to review.

At the end of the day, all we really have are our reputations. They are what careers are built on. They’re generally the result of years of hard work, lots of blood, sweat and the occasional tear but all that can be undone by an unguarded comment or statement, well meant but taken out of context. By all means tweet ­just don’t be a twit! n

Guy Moreton is director of recruitment practitioner MorePeople