by Capt. Jen Copeland
In many ways social media is defining the world around us. While skillfully maneuvering the Instagrams and Facebooks of the world can raise the professional profile of your career, posting things inappropriately can ruin your reputation, change the way people look at you, and even get you fired. Captain Jen Copeland provides a thoughtful, insightful breakdown of how sportfishing mates should approach the use of social media. It’s a good read for anyone, if you plan to make your career in sportfishing it is a must read. – ITB
Social media provides a unique look inside the world of sportfishing and the many interesting men and women who make up the sportfishing industry. Social media post
s show us what is biting where and allow us to preview new products. Social media—and the information it provides—has dramatically shortened the time necessary to make decisions.
Many participants in the sportfishing industry – top teams, small lure makers, tournaments, and brokerages – capitalize on the “perceived free advertising” Instagram and Facebook provide. Top teams use it for a real-time fishing reports and to track the success of their competitors. What once took captains hours, or even days to hear via the coconut telegraph, now takes only minutes. Most everyone is connected by social media one way or another and it has proven to be a real asset.
“Staying in touch with family and friends while you’re travelling enables more people to be involved in the sport, and everyone gets excited to see fish being caught,” says Captain Jimmy Werling of the Plane Simple. Werling, whose team is a regular on tournament leaderboards, keeps a watchful eye on his competition through social media. “Although I may not be competing with so-and-so this week, I may be the next week. I’m able to track the teams I need to watch out for.”
Of all the professionals surveyed about the subject, not one of them said social media was “bad” for the fishing business itself. In fact, they all agreed it provides a wealth of knowledge and information that is both informative and instantly accessible. But, there must be a down side, right?
While there is no doubt the sportfishing industry has become “instafamous” in the past few years, let’s not forget the possible repercussions from your “professional” posts. What you post can impact your immediate situation and even follow you into the future. Just as social media had made information available at the touch of app, it can also wreak havoc on your career should it not be used responsibly.
Kona Captain Bryan Toney of Marlin Magic says he has only used social media on a professional level for the last year. “I don’t post anything personal, I’ve strayed from that,” Toney says. “It (SM) is a great way to get yourself out there. But if you’re looking to further your career, my advice is to keep it completely professional.” Solid advice from a man who says, “I learned it the hard way.”
Anytime you post, comment or like something, it is a direct reflection on you and your character. Though you may not realize it, this can affect the way people think about you. Six degrees of separation? Possibly. According to Captain Doug Covin of Hatteras team Copper Leader, “I have used several different mates over the last few years, so I’ve used social media many times to do a ’background check’ to see what type of fishing a mate is doing or to see who his friends are.” Covin continues by saying “if a mate posts a lot of pictures of himself at the sandbar, or drinking with his buddies, then that’s very telling.” Very telling, but not in a good, professional way.
“It’s your resume you’re putting out there,” another captain points out. “Everyday out on the dock is a real-time interview to see how you carry yourself, how your boat looks. With social media, you don’t know who is watching you. It could be your captain, your owner, a future employer – one screw up could ruin your job, or your future – and that’s worth remembering.”
Living in the moment is one thing that makes the charm of sportfishing so alluring. If sportfishing is your chosen career, however, it’s wise to think of your future. In ten years, how do you want to be seen? Impressions do matter and no one is irreplaceable. As Captain Bryan Toney says, “Good mates don’t stay mates, they turn into responsible, respectable captains. And well, good mates with bad habits stay mates – if he’s lucky.”
The Bottom Line: “Could a mate’s indiscretions in social media content affect his career?”
Both Covin and Toney think it could, at least in the short term. Captain Jimmy Werling answered with a definitive, “100% yes.” He explains, “Once it’s out there, it’s always out there. To me, this means when you go to apply for another job, inappropriate posts will come back to haunt you,” he goes on to say. “If your social media profile makes you look like an idiot, then you are an idiot. It can define you, so be aware of what you put out there – it’s there to stay and for all to see.” Werling went on to tell me that his boss’ company has a very strict social media policy for the boat. If he goes to hire a new mate, the company will search the new hire’s social media profile(s) to help determine what type of person they are.
According to another top, competitive tournament captain (who prefers to remain anonymous), “Any future employer has the right to judge you on your social media habits. Most have been usually right when it comes to determining a personality based on your posts. It’s just another network. You must use common sense, and in this business, if you don’t have that, find another career.”
This estimation may sound harsh, but it is a harsh reality. The fact that others may make judgments on your skills or character by what you post on social media should not be a surprise. When it comes to your social media accounts, you put it there, so it’s an open invitation for anyone to “check you out” – private or public.
To Post or Not to Post?
What is inappropriate? That is a personal decision and one a responsible, mature mate should be able to easily make. Off the high of a stellar fishing day, you may be tempted to post the highlights ASAP. But there are a few factors you may want to consider prior to clicking the share button:
- Respect the boss’s wishes and privacy: Having worked for the same family for over 13 years, I can tell you that on more than one occasion the boss has called me to express his annoyance with how my mate had posted our day’s activities. He simply does not want to the general public (i.e. his company employees) knowing his personal business, how he spends his off-time, and more importantly, his toy collection. This is understandable—many private owners want to be private, off the social media grid or incognito. Part of your job is to respect his privacy. Respect himand he will respect you. When in doubt, the man with the gold rules, so it’s best to ask first. Either way you look at it, it’s wise to get your owner’s take on the matter.
- Put yourself in your captain’s shoes: It’s hard enough to keep his secrets “secret.” Having his hard work plastered all over your page enlightening your 2,000 followers that all your blue marlin came up on the purple dredge or green squid chain isn’t helping and is hardly acceptable. While many captains have their own social media agendas, they may prefer to make that decision on their own. Is it your place to make that decision for him? How do you want your mates sharing boat business when it’s time for you to make all the decisions? I thought so.
- The future of your career: Choose your posts wisely, with as much common sense as you can muster. Even a private account can easily be shared, so be advised. Posting your Saturday afternoon of dunk-a-roos or pre-tournament rounds of Fireball shots at 6:00am isn’t exactly making you look professional. Broadcasting such activities out there for the world to see certainly isn’t good for your resume. Remember, what happens on the boat, stays on the boat. Anything posted on the interwebs is there forever, and rest assured your next boss is going to have a look at your social media footprint and habits – he’d be a fool not to. Having any individual responsible for his multi-million-dollar operation, not to mention his friends and family, deserves a little past-delving…don’t you agree?
The bottom line is this, and top captains agree: thinking twice always makes you see things differently the second time. If you are committed to this fishing career of yours, regardless whether or not you are part of a private or charter program, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. The days of using social media to make yourself known and speak your mind are over. This “thing” has morphed into a permanent, real life window to your world, so be sure you are ready to have your current, or future employer peering into it.