Recent headlines read "Twitter Gets You Fired in 140 Characters or Less," "Facebook Photo Convicts School Aide of Drinking Charge," and, in Philadelphia, "Eagles Fire Disabled Game-Day Employee for Facebook Comments."
The headlines project a warning: Be careful with social networking.
How people communicate is changing. Status updates on social-networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn or tweets on Tweeter increasingly supplant phone calls and emails.
Yet, according to Barbara Pachter, author of New Rules@Work: 79 Etiquette Tips, Tools, and Techniques to Get Ahead and Stay Ahead (Prentice Hall Press), “People are so enthusiastic to keep up with technology, that they often don’t consider the content of their posts. Professionals need to realize that nothing they say on the Internet is private. Social networking can be beneficial, but only when used properly.”
Here are seven guidelines to follow:
1. Think before posting. What is put on sites can and will come back to haunt you. Any pictures shown or updates written are public. Even if the account's privacy settings are activated, the information is never completely secure. If you wonder whether your post is appropriate, ask yourself this: Would you get into trouble if your boss saw it? If the answer is yes, don’t post it.
2. Do be sure to have an online presence. Social-networking sites aren't used only by young professionals. Companies need to stay up-to-date. Present and future clients, customers, business contacts and potential employers will look up the company and employees. The information found can affect buying or hiring decisions.
3. Remember that an online presence is part of a professional image. The content on a social-networking site creates an online presence. Consider the image portrayed. Look at the profile and ask, “Would I want to do business with this person?” Or “Would I hire this person?” If managers don’t want others knowing certain things about them, they need to keep in mind that they control what information they post.
4. Follow company guidelines. Many companies have developed polices about employee social-networking use during company time and even what company information is OK or not OK to share.
5. Don't post negative comments about an employer. If you have a gripe about your employer, talk with the appropriate person in the company.
6. Don't let social networking take over your life. Stay productive. Don't become so involved in updating your virtual presence that you let your other responsibilities slide.
7. Remember that phone calls and in-person visits are still important parts of doing business. Pachter recounts that it took four Facebook exchanges with a colleague to determine where and when to meet for lunch. "If she had called me, the decision would have been made in seconds!" Pachter says.