Career Advice, Watercooler

Watch Your Social Media Mouth At Work!

Twitter and Facebook can become addictive, yet worthwhile habits, especially for anyone developing their own reputation and professional brand. Yet they can undermine your work ethic and anger your boss, especially if he’s not into the social network scene.

Managers’ biggest concern: Workers are wasting time on the job using social media for personal purposes, according to an Accountemps survey of 1,400 chief financial officers. They also worry staff may behave unprofessionally or say something bad about the organization. Only one in 10 said they have no concerns about Facebook at work.

If you’re trying to justify your tweets and squeeze in a little LinkedIn during a coffee break, get clear on the rules and rituals at your workplace. Show your boss what’s in it for him, and for the company, said Angela Connor, a social media manager for Capstrat public relations in Raleigh, N.C. and author of the book “18 Rules of Community Engagement.”

Here are seven tips for treading the line between personal and professional, and paid work and your own brand work:

  • Be aware of your company’s policy for using Facebook. If it is banned from the workplace, don’t use it from your mobile phone either, Conner said. “I know it seems like the perfect work- around but the bottom line is this: you are still on company time, accessing a site that your employer does not allow.”
  • Develop your own social media policies. Set your own rules for how you connect – and where – and you will be clearer and happier. Conner notes that setting boundaries will help you “filter out the noise” and use your time effectively.
  • Don’t rely on privacy settings. They may sound secure but there are often exceptions. “I do not believe in those privacy settings” at Facebook, said Connor. She warns:  anyone who can see your content can copy and paste it elsewhere. “Anything you post can have a life of its own well beyond the Facebook walls. One right click and save, and your pictures belong to someone else.  A simple screenshot can easily be posted into an email and sent out to the universe.”
  • Think about what you say. It may sound funny to write “just goofing off and waiting for work to end” until you realize your boss is checking your Twitter or Facebook comments. Never gripe about your boss or your job online – it looks bad to the current one and any future boss who may be checking you out.  Many people have been fired for what they’ve written or done online and you don’t want to join them.
  • Decide who your friends are. If you become Facebook friends with a lot of co-workers, you probably won’t un-friend them when you leave your current job – or when they do. You risk burning bridges with comments about your former colleagues or workplace and as Connor says, “the world is way too small to allow this to happen.”
  • Show the advantage to your company. If some of your tweets are sweet praise for your employer, they may be appreciated. Or use Facebook or LinkedIn to build your network of potential clients or new hires and the time spent will be a golden investment.  Improving customer service or enhancing the employer’s reputations were the two greatest potential benefits identified in the Accountemps survey.
  • Show the results. Once you have the boss’ buy-in to use Twitter or LinkedIn Answers for 30 minutes a day, send a follow-up report that shows what has been gained, Connor said. Identify client leads, article or blog post mentions, potential partnerships or other ways the company is getting something out of your social media use, said Connor.

If you can’t draw the line maybe you need to skip it altogether, at least until your title or job description includes social media.