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While it’s true that most employees know proper etiquette for using social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, there are many who don’t. In fact, a recent survey from email security firm, Proofpoint, finds seven percent of organizations have fired an employee because of activity on social media sites. Ouch! And another 20 percent said employees have been disciplined over social media activity. (Many companies have Social Media core guidelines as part of their employee handbook, but if your company doesn’t, here is an excellent article from Inc. on “How to Write A Social Media Policy.”)

I want to share with you in this post five ways to be appropriate and savvy with social media at work:

  1. Use social media sites like Facebook only during a break time, such as your lunch break, preferably on your personal smart phone versus your office computer . Why? Because all sites you visit on your office computer can be tracked by sophisticated retrieval systems. And as many of us know, Facebook can be a time sucker. So, avoid the temptation to use work time for scrolling your news feed.
  2. Remember to keep Facebook posts geared to family and friends. This is where to post pictures of your vacation, kids and grandkids…and oh yes, those cute cat and dog videos. Keep those coming…but keep any work related rants to yourself.
  3. Your personal brand is another thing to consider in your online interactions. Discretion is key for all Facebook posts. What you post lives forever and gives an impression of you. Posting risque’ photos of you in a swimsuit, holding a glass of wine, or sampling beer in an Irish pub on vacation may seem “harmless” enough. But, in reality, these photos can undermine your professional image, and could result in discipline or termination if seen by the wrong people (especially if you work in an industry involving children). Even though your Facebook setting may be “private,” if you happen to be Facebook friends with any of your coworkers, it’s only a matter of time before a boss or supervisor sees these posts. (Keep in mind that Facebook redesigns can cause “private” settings to default back to “public,” so check your settings often.)
  4. Use good grammar, spelling and punctuation…and no expletives or texting language. ‘nough said.
  5. Use the professional social media site, LinkedIn for work-related posts. This is the appropriate site to advertise job vacancies, share a new company initiative, or highlight job-related awards and company news. And be careful to protect your company’s brand, reputation and image. Inappropriate posts include venting about coworkers, your boss, or your company. In addition, be sure you aren’t leaking sensitive data, either intentionally or unintentionally, on any social media sites, including your own personal blog site. These same guidelines apply if you post to a Twitter account or post on your company’s Facebook page.

Social media is a great communication tool. These tips will help you put your best foot forward,  maintain personal professionalism and reflect on your company or organization in a positive way.