Some companies encourage their employees to make use of social networking tools like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. They realize that if done within some intelligent guidelines, it can help build brand recognition, improve the flow of information between companies and their consumers, and hopefully, increase customer loyalty.
Others discourage or outright forbid their employees from engaging in online socializing. They realize that such activities, when not conducted with some care, can be a huge leak of sensitive and confidential information. In fact, a recent survey by ProofPoint has shown that 7% of companies have terminated employees for social networking site policy violations, 11% for blog posting violations, and 52% are “highly concerned” about the risk of information leakage through services like Twitter.
Let’s face it, social networking is a fun way to stay in touch with friends and family,to share ideas with like-minded individuals, and to share information with clients and business contacts. It can also be a time-waster and a drain on productivity. None of this is news to company managers, so, the first rule is to
Know Your Company’s Policy Regarding Social Networking at Work
Check your online employee portal if you have one, or review your printed employee handbook. If neither of these are available, ask your manager to point you in the right direction. No matter what you might read here or anywhere else, it is imperative to comply with your company policy, or you risk disciplinary action, termination, even a law suit. That’s right, employees who knowingly or through negligence reveal confidential information can be held liable for subsequent financial losses suffered by the company.
Keep in mind that there is a difference between social networking about work and social networking at work. The policy may allow you to participate, but not during your normal working hours. Unless of course, corporate communications is part of your job description.
With that first rule firmly ingrained, here are a few other tips to keep in mind. Some or all of them mirror many company policies.
Be sure of all information you post. If you are stating something as fact, make sure it is a fact, not opinion or wishful thinking. Citing references or sources is a big plus.
Clearly state that your opinions and viewpoints are yours, and do not represent the stance of your employer.
Engage in intelligent dialog with others. Find out who else is blogging about the topics that interest you. Comment on their posts and link to their blogs. You’ll help build your network of resources and your online credibility.
Consider potential conflict of interest repercussions. If you “friend-request” a business contact, will that put either of you in an akward or compromising position?
Watch your spelling and grammar. “Leet-speak” may be cool with your friends, but avoid it if you want to build a professional online persona.
Review what you’re saying before clicking Submit. It is not only a reflection on you, but on your company as well, even if you do publish a disclaimer.
Remember that what you post may well last forever. It is virtually impossible to remove something once it has been posted on the Internet.
Give away company secrets. A good rule of thumb is, if it isn’t published in a press release or on an official company website, then don’t reveal it. Someone else leaking confidential information on their site doesn’t give you permission to discuss what you know about it.
Engage in name-calling, or post inflammatory remarks. Stating informed, conflicting opinions is fine, posting emotional diatribes is not.
Share personal information about your co-workers. Identity theft and social engineering are prevalent enough, don’t contribute to the problems
Here’s one more ‘do‘ for you – have fun with it. Even though these rules of thumb may seem encumbering or limiting, there is still plenty of latitude to let your personality and sense of humor pervade your social media contributions. That, a little common sense, and adherence to company policy is all it takes to build your on-line presence and strengthen your ties to your industry.