Today’s connected world often requires young professionals to use personal social media networks as part of their job. This paradigm has created many questions for a cohort of workers that grew up using Facebook and Twitter. For example: what to do when a boss, co-worker or client ‘friends’ or ‘follows’ you.
A challenge that faces the social media generation is how to shift from what to share with only friends vs. professional when the workplace forces them to integrate personal social networks into their jobs. In general, young employees today need to filter content they post in ways that weren’t necessary before.
This Onion video spoofs a very real worry: that every age-appropriate 2040 Presidential candidate will be ineligible due to his or her Facebook activity. Reality is that young people have always engaged in not-so-intelligent behavior, and this generation deals with the added challenge of an almost constant and inevitable documentation of every poor decision.
So, is the solution to ditch social media networks when you enter the “real world” of employment? Anyone who’s interested in a professional communications career knows that’s not a viable option, so it’s better to follow this one simple rule:
Pretend the Internet is your mother.
This sounds silly, but it’s a solid concept when put into context. You can’t control every bit of information that friends post about you, but you can control your own content. Think of that gut feeling you get when you do something your mother would question. If you feel even a twinge of that, rethink what you’re about to post. This extends beyond the obvious inappropriate photos and cursing online.
To be safe, assume Murphy’s Law will prevail: If something can go wrong, it will. Read anything you’re going to post as carefully as if you plan for it to end up in the New York Times—because once you post it to the very public Internet—it could. Check your privacy settings. If your post, tweet or status update contains content not meant for everyone’s eyes, make sure you properly secure it—and think twice if you really need to post it online at all.
In a recent CNN Article, Doug Gross covered the gamut of challenges that social media presents, from whether an employee has the right to flip Twitter followers to a new handle when they change jobs, to how companies handle negative posts by their employees. This reporter, who lost his brand- new job over a social media slip-up, should have known better than to post his exciting news without first clearing it with his superiors. Even if you intend no harm, the reality remains that as a young professional, it’s important to think critically about your social media presence.
Social Media is a beautiful thing. It creates a two-way conversation in business that has never existed before. Learning how to properly use it will give companies an undeniable edge, but learning how to manage your own personal networks requires developing a level of maturity and restraint that’s valuable across all levels of professional communications.
Now, go enjoy a viral video of some cat playing the piano.