It has always been a challenge to keep our personal lives out of the office. Experts caution us “never to mix business with pleasure.” But in the age of social media, following that advice has become virtually impossible (pun intended).
Here are some tips to minimize social media disasters and maximize new media benefits:
If appropriate, create professional and personal accounts for Facebook and/or Twitter. While it’s far from foolproof, having a personal and professional account for each will go a long way toward helping you manage your identities online.
“Look for yourself” online regularly, advises Broowaha blogger Miguel Salcido. “Before making any changes, you should first get an idea of where your professional and personal lives collide. Perform a search on your name and any variations — does anything surprising appear? Is there anything that may cause uncomfortable questions in the future? If so, this may be an indicator that your personal and professional online presences may need some work.” Likewise, take inventory of your Facebook, YouTube and Instagram accounts and consider deleting posts, photos or videos that may compromise your professional reputation.
Yes, it takes time and patience to read the small print, but knowing how to control who has access to your Facebook page, tweets and Instagram photos may save you a great deal of unnecessary grief. Twitter offers users the option to set their account security to protected. While it’s a simple setting, it’s also all or nothing: Those you select to see your public tweets can see them all. Those you deny access to can’t see anything. Facebook, on the other hand, offers tiers of privacy. You can adjust your settings to make your posts and information available to the public, friends of friends, friends or custom groups you assign. You can also set privacy on a post-by-post basis. With flexibility comes added complexity; pay close attention when you configure your privacy controls.
Don’t accept friend requests to your personal account from people you don’t know. It increases the number of people with access to your personal information and the possibility of causing harm to your online reputation. Also, get comfortable avoiding friend requests from colleagues and business associates. Management professors Ariane Ollier-Malaterre and Nancy Rothbard surveyed dozens of professionals on the subject. Their advice? If you don’t have a professional Facebook page, try deflecting by directing professional contacts to your LinkedIn page instead. If you just can’t bring yourself to ignore those requests, resign yourself to posting “only carefully considered content.”
Attempting to hide your personal accounts from colleagues is futile. Instead, think carefully before you post on your personal and professional social media networks. Remember, when you post something to the Internet it can live on forever — and there’s little you can do about it. You’ve heard it before but it bears repeating: Don’t share anything online that you wouldn’t want your mother or your boss to see!