Exploring situationally inappropriate social media posts: an impression management perspective

Purpose - Social media technologies are used by many organizations to project a positive image of their strategies and operations. At the same time, however, there are an increasing number of reports of slip-ups linked to poor situational awareness and flawed self-presentations on social media platforms. This paper explores the triggers of inappropriate social media posts. Design/methodology/approach – Data was collected during a qualitative study of social media use in 31 organizations in the United Kingdom (UK) and interpreted using concepts from Erving Goffman’s theory of impression management. Findings - Our findings point to a series of demanding triggers, which increase the likelihood of insensitive and contextually inappropriate posts and also damage fostered impressions. Originality/value - We identify four triggers linked to inappropriate social media posts, namely (a) speed and spontaneity, (b) informality, (c) blurred boundaries and (d) the missing audience. We also discuss how extending the notion of what Goffman refers to as ‘situation-like’ encounters provides useful insights into impression management on social media.