We have lunch together (occasionally). You know my phone number (but luckily don’t use it much). I give your kids presents for their birthdays, Bar Mitzvahs and graduations…But should I friend you on Facebook?
In today’s social world, boundaries and “lines” across relationships, and the protocol guiding them, seem to blur the second they’re set. As soon as the marketing department and human resources issue “Social Media Guidelines for XYZ Company Employees,” the addenda and exceptions start flying.
With new social media platforms offering creative ways to engage and socialize, we can now know about each other’s personal lives, career history, photos from high school and most personal inner thoughts, online. So how do you know when, where and how to connect with your employers and influencers online?
Don’t Leave Yourself Exposed
I recently wrote a post titled Are You Showing Up Naked Online? Of course, I wondered how many people clicked on the post to see if I was, in fact, discussing the virtues of public nudity. In fact, it was about the vulnerability we often experience if we approach social networking and online behavior without a proper strategy and filter.
When engaging in the online space, your goals can be career advancement, social activity and connection or research, for instance. Regardless of why you approach the online space, you can’t forget that 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the online community is watching, listening and noting your successes and indiscretions.
Nothing you post online (on a computer, cell phone, tablet or other electronic machine) is ever, ever private. No privacy settings, firewalls or rules will protect you if someone shares your Facebook status update, takes a screenshot of your SnapChat photo or forwards your text message to your HR Director or the New York Times.
Reporters, hackers, bloggers and employers are all watching. Yes, you heard me. They are even watching you! When you create an online presence, you open yourself and your career up to scrutiny and inspection.
While this might sound scary, it’s also an opportunity. Instead of running away and deleting all of your online accounts, why not create a strategy and protocol for yourself that will guide and direct the way you show up online? Having a set of rules for yourself and your online brand will ensure you can build consistency and intention for the narrative, positioning and image you wish to portray.
Pros and Cons of Friending Your Boss
Within the context laid out above, let’s look at some reasons you might want to friend your boss on Facebook, as well as some reasons you might want to put on the dark sunglasses and trench coat and hide.
Every personal brand strategy includes an ability to weigh the costs and benefits of a decision. Here are some guides for evaluating this one:
Pro: Your boss can view your healthy lifestyle and might appreciate that you have a positive work/life balance.
Con: Posting so many vacation photos might cause your employer to think you only value time off and live for vacations.
Pro: You can humanize your personal brand by showing your appreciation for the arts, community and family.
Con: Repeatedly posting sad images of puppies at high-kill shelters could depress your boss and cause them to equate you with sad things.
Pro: Facebook gives you an opportunity to celebrate your successes and those of your friends and family.
Con: Celebrating by partying on a Tuesday afternoon, when you called in sick, and posting photos could get you reprimanded at work.
There is no easy cheat sheet of rules for everyone on what to post and what to not post on Facebook. Using your best judgment, following your values and considering the impression those posts can have on others is a good starting place.
Angela Roberts, CPA and founder of the leading IT and financial recruiting firm Activity, puts it this way:
It’s paramount that employers trust their employees and vice versa. Sometimes, the things we put on Facebook that we think are funny, entertaining or newsworthy can destroy trust back at the office. That’s a high price to pay for both employees and their employers.
Check the Fine Print
Many companies are developing guidelines and standards for social media. Be sure to consult those before engaging with colleagues and employers online.
Some rules I’ve heard of include:
- Supervisors cannot post recommendations or endorsements for staff.
- Colleagues are prevented from posting recommendations or endorsements for colleagues or staff
- Colleagues and potential/former employees are discouraged from even connecting on LinkedIn.
- Companies are requiring full disclosures and disclaimers on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other high-profile social sites, stating that the information shared is not the opinion of the company.
- Businesses are disallowing employees to “subscribe” to YouTube channels.
- No mention of competitors, clients/customers, products or employees is permitted online by employees.
And so on. Companies that permit use of social media still need to maintain confidentiality, employee privacy and brand integrity while empowering their teams to engage in robust conversations and serve as ambassadors for the company brand online. This can certainly get tricky.
How does your workplace handle social media engagement among employees?