Social media in the workplace

By Sara Riley

Are you a prolific poster on social media?

Whether you are working to build your number of followers and likes or are just a casual social media user you should be aware of how your use of social media can effect your employment.

One of the biggest misconceptions about social media is the belief that your employer cannot sanction or punish you for what you post or say about your workplace or the business where you’re employed. This is not necessary true. Unless you have a written employment contract that details your employment rights, or you work for the federal, state or local government, you have fewer rights, including free speech, than most people realize.

If, despite the potential career ramifications, you are intent on using social media and to posting while you are on the job, you should exercise caution to protect yourself.

Some suggestions for safer social media use include:

*Use a fake name. Many college students and recent college graduates have adopted the standard “First Name Middle Name” social media handle. This has the benefit of making a standard search of their first name and last name more difficult for would-be employers while also maintaining some sense of identity for friends looking to connect on social platforms. Those who’ve been burned in the workplace by social media are often quick to advocate an entirely fake name for their Facebook page or Twitter handle.

*Think before you post. In this fast-paced world where there is breaking news seemingly every five minutes, the temptation to react immediately via Facebook or Twitter can be overwhelming. As with many things in life, it’s a better course of action to slow down, process, and consider what you post to the world. A good rule of thumb can also be to create a social media message and then wait 60 minutes. If it seems as relevant and important after that time period as it did in the heat of the moment, only then consider posting.

*Don’t identify your employer on social media. It’s common sense not to rant about your employer online, but not everyone follows those guidelines. If you choose to complain about your employer’s policies, do not identify them in the post or in the “works at” section of your profile. It is also not wise to identify your employer on social media even if you would never use social media to badmouth your employer. Social media is full of people who get upset over contrary opinions, if your employer isn’t listed, and your last name is not listed the chances that someone from across the country will call your employer in an attempt to get you fired because they were upset about a political, or even a sports related, post they disagreed with, is greatly diminished.

*Don’t tag a lot of people. Some of your colleagues at work may want to stay anonymous to your shared employer. Respect their right and don’t tag them in any photos or content that could threaten their job as well.

*The internet is forever. It’s important to remember that anything you post online can ultimately be traced back to you. Just because you delete an unflattering or offensive post doesn’t mean that it cannot be unearthed or that someone hasn’t already taken a screenshot of it with their mobile device.

As you navigate the world of social media, remember that your usage could have ramifications for you at work.