Popular social networking websites such as Facebook were initially designed as a way for individuals to connect with friends and family. Today, these tools are increasingly used for professional purposes in a range of industries. With the lines between professional and personal life becoming ever more blurred, it is important to give careful thought to your online persona and how you interact with others through social media.
Many people attempt to keep their Facebook profiles away from the public eye, or create separate profiles for social and professional purposes. Others have decided their work and personal lives are so tightly linked that they have no reservations about friending colleagues as well as pals. Just as you might share some details about your social life with a client over lunch, you may decide that connecting with colleagues on Facebook allows you to build closer relationships. Depending on your industry, you may even find that Facebook is a useful way to develop relationships that may lead to new business.
“Should I be friends with my boss on Facebook?” is one of the most frequently asked questions. If you do connect, utilise privacy settings and different friend lists to control how — and with whom — you share content. Be sensitive to your professional environment: some industries or companies are much more engaged in digital networking than others. If you are starting a new job, take your cue from others before sending out “friend” requests to your new colleagues.
There may be no definite answer to why you should or should not be friends with your boss. Whatever your decision is, it is important to understand the social networking “rules of the road”. Here are a few tips to manage your social media presence:
Make the call. Are you using Facebook for work or personal use? If you decide to friend colleagues, suppliers and customers, maintain full business acumen. Avoid posting what you ate today or what bar you are going to tonight for your business contacts to see.
Keep it focused. When using your social networking account for business, keep it focused. Resist the temptation to post updates about games, quizzes and groups to which you belong if you use Facebook for business. You will likely lose the interest of, or even annoy individuals who want to know about your professional activities. Do not add new applications lightly as some automatically post your activities on the general RSS feed.
Respect the wall. If you do not want everyone in your network to read what you post, do not put it on your wall or anyone else’s wall. Remember, anyone you ‘friend’ can see your comments, photos and YouTube video links. If you are concerned about others seeing a comment, send an email or use Facebook’s messaging feature instead.
Avoid venting. Some people continue to make the mistake of posting negative comments or gossiping about their employers, supervisors, colleagues, or any other sensitive topics. Do not do it – chances are the wrong set of eyes will stumble upon your remarks.
Ask before you tag. Check with people before tagging them in photos, especially if you think they might not appreciate it, and do not tag someone else’s photo with a business pitch unless you have asked permission. Remember to check your own photos periodically to make sure you have not been tagged in one you may not want to be associated with; Facebook has settings that allow you to receive an alert anytime you have been tagged in a photo.
Heed restrictions. Many companies have policies about how their employees use social media sites and present themselves online. It is wise to follow any such rules explicitly, as well as limit personal usage of social media at work.
Unfortunately Facebook and other new technologies do not come with a manual for savvy users. However, we can all learn from our own and others’ missteps, and always conduct oneself with professionalism and decorum when it comes to using social media.
Contributed by Pallavi Anand, Director, Robert Half Hong Kong