If you’re like most Gen Zs, you probably spend at least a few hours a day on social media. (18 to 24-year-olds spend an average of 45+ minutes a day on TikTok alone.)
While you may have been brought up a digital native and sharing on social media is second nature, there are some new things to consider when putting yourself out there as a business professional. The line between what’s appropriate to share socially with family and friends and what is okay for the workplace can sometimes be blurred in today’s world.
To help clear things up a bit, we put together some general rules of thumb you can apply to your social media activity (to be used alongside your best judgment of course).
1. Do respect your company’s social media policy
Some companies have a clearly outlined set of policies for social media use by employees, and some don’t. Be sure to read yours carefully if it exists. If you don’t know where to find it, you might look in the employee handbook or any documentation you signed when you were hired.
Some policies will cover proper use of the company’s social channels (especially if you work in marketing and it’s part of your job), but they may also have rules for sharing on your personal or work-affiliated accounts as well.
Here are a few common social media rules that your company might include in their policy:
- Don’t disparage the company or its employees on your personal social media accounts (more on that below)
- Don’t share any sensitive or confidential company information
- Don’t use company time for personal social media use
Whether or not your company has an official social media policy, it’s still a good idea to follow these “don’ts” anyway, to protect your reputation — and your job.
2. Don’t badmouth your employer, boss, or coworkers
An important thing to remember is that anything you post — whether on a private account or not — is never really 100% private. Anyone who follows you can easily screenshot something you post and share it with your employer.
We all have bad days at work or people we have to work with who aren’t our favorite. But social media is not the appropriate place to vent about your job, your boss, or that coworker who drives you crazy.
If you have a problem with someone at work, the professional and respectful thing to do is talk to that person directly and let them know what’s bothering you. Talking behind someone’s back, or worse, publicizing your grievances on social media looks petty and makes you look bad.
If you’re having a really challenging time with your boss and don’t feel comfortable going to them directly, talk to someone in your HR department or another manager you trust to try and get the problem resolved. Your friends on social media won’t be able to fix your work problems for you — only you can do that.
3. Do make good (social) choices
If you’ve been on social media for long enough, you’ve probably had some past posts you regret sharing. Remember that what you choose to post today could come back to haunt you down the road. So if you do one of the “don’ts” — like publicly disparaging your employer — a future employer could get wind of it and think twice about hiring you.
If you’re not completely sure about whether or not something you’re thinking about posting is appropriate or if you should make a particular comment, it’s probably a good idea to put the phone down and back away slowly. One snarky Tweet that could hurt your career isn’t worth the few likes you might get on it.
Also, while you have a right to your opinions and beliefs, be thoughtful about the right time and place to share them. Getting into social media arguments about politics or religion might get you fired up, but remember that your Facebook comments are very unlikely to change anyone’s mind. And if you’re using social accounts associated with your job, just avoid these topics altogether and keep conversations focused on your career or industry — or safe topics, like how awesome cats are.
4. Do use social media to advance your career
Social media can be a great place to network and build your personal brand. LinkedIn in particular is a great place to promote yourself professionally and connect with people in your line of work or the industries you’re interested in.
As for other platforms like Twitter and Instagram, some people like to maintain separate personal and professional accounts to share different things. This can be a good way to keep some separation between your personal and work lives, and give you the opportunity to personalize the content you share based on your audience.
For example, if you work in sales, you might want to have a separate Twitter account for work, where you can connect with prospects and share content related to your business.
Just remember, whether you’re posting on a personal account or a professional one, use social media for good, and try to put more positivity out into the world (there’s already enough negative stuff to go around).
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