What is Your Personal Social Media Policy?

Social media can be confusing and even threatening because of its newness and visibility. Employees have been fired over posting photos, expressing their opinions, and posting a status message on Facebook. Upon reading these tales, you’ll find that some of these stories are fair while others are unfortunate. You’ll see plenty of arguments for both points of view across various blogs and news sites. Recently, the National Labor Relations Board took the side of the employee when they stepped in after a company fired her for making negative comments about her supervisor, stating that conversations about working conditions are a form of protected speech—no matter if they occur at work, at the bar, or online. We won’t know the outcome of the case until January, but until then, we all have opinions about where the line is, right?

Regardless of the verdict, my three tips for crafting your own social media policy are:

Define Your Boundaries

Whether you choose to connect with your boss, your employees, your co-workers, or your clients online is a personal decision and one on which people have differing opinions to say the least! But as a boss or manager, you have additional considerations. Being in a leadership position gives you a little bit more power; this dynamic may make your Facebook invitation seem as threatening or overstepping boundaries to an employee who you do not have a personal friendship with already. The same could be true for clients, depending on the nature of your business.

I see Facebook as personal, LinkedIn as professional, and Twitter as promotional. My policy is I choose to connect with friends and family on Facebook (sharing personal updates and photos), colleagues and professional acquaintances on LinkedIn (the digital business card and resume), and anyone and everyone on Twitter (PR and marketing).

Define these boundaries for yourself. How do you want to use each of these tools, how do you want to be perceived through them, and how do you wish to connect with others?

Act in Accordance with Your Values

If you look at the themes that show up in the stories of the “I got fired because of a Facebook status message” or because of posting inappropriate pictures, the majority of the time, the person was caught lying, acting unethically, or depicting themselves in a manner that was damaging to the brand of the company by which they are employed. Usually, you can tell such things from photos or short messages, but not always.

Regardless of your actual behavior or intentions, living in a hyper-connected, overly-accessible era means you have to be your own brand manager. While you cannot control what others think of you, you can take control over what you put out there. That might mean untagging yourself from pictures you’d rather not have posted on the front page of your newspaper or removing and apologizing for a hasty message sent during a heated moment.

Know the Privacy Settings

I am a fan of the custom privacy controls on Facebook. I have a few groups set up for the level of trust and relationship I have with those people. Family and close friends, for example, have more access to my online activity. Utilizing the privacy controls in this way allows you to tweak the settings for that entire population with a few clicks, to hide a certain photo album, or prevent them from seeing any photos tagged by others. Also, remember that your profiles have a public view, showing some information to everyone – make sure you know what that information is.

What do you think, where is the line? Should your personal life be anyone’s business if it is accessible online? What type of comments are inappropriate and unprofessional? Who do you choose to connect with and how publicly do you live your life online?

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