The way we market ourselves, learn, build connections and communicate has changed.

More than three billion people are on social media. Companies around the world leverage platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn to market their products and services and build their consumer base. Internally, they’ve used these platforms, along with tools like Slack and Yammer, to build engagement around corporate initiatives, promote cross-team collaboration and share company information. In fact, 82% of employees believe that social media positively impacts their work relationships. Social media has its benefits, but it also carries a high level of responsibility.

As an example, picture this: You’re dancing after having had a few drinks with your colleagues when one of them snaps a picture of you. It’s quickly posted to your team’s Yammer page with the caption, “It’s getting wild!” In seconds, your picture has several reactions and notifications. One is a thumbs down emoji from your manager, which leaves little to interpretation.

Like using any tool, using social media requires a bit of training; otherwise, employees’ working relationships, professionalism and career opportunities can be at risk. To facilitate a positive networking community and help others maintain their credibility and build positive working relationships, here are a few things to consider.

If Employees Are Open With Social Media, Help Them…

Evaluate Their Brands

What image are they showing to the world? How are they representing your organization? Our personal brands can impact our credibility in the workplace and our eligibility for future opportunities and connections. In fact, 34% of employers have found content on social media that “caused them to reprimand or fire an employee.” To help employees decide if their content is appropriate, suggest that they ask themselves, “If my boss saw this post, would I be OK?”

Use What They Know

Employees with managers who are open and approachable are more engaged. Connecting with employees on social media gives you insights into their personal lives; why not use that information to build your relationships? For example, after seeing a post online, you can ask an employee, “I noticed you went camping this weekend; how was it?”

Being able to talk about non-work-related topics improves personal connections and builds trust. As Camille Fournier, former chief technology officer at Rent the Runway, says, “Treat your peers as interesting fellow humans, and you may be surprised what it does for their motivation, dedication, and engagement.” Of course, everything in moderation — prying too much can feel intrusive.

Be Mindful of Timing

On average, employees spend over two hours of each workday using social media. Many companies question the use of social media at work, as it can have a negative impact on productivity. Help employees keep their social media posting outside of working hours or during breaks, unless it’s specifically for work.

If Employees Stay Private, Encourage Them to…

Share the Rationale

If they’ve been asked by a co-worker to connect and they decline, encourage them to have a conversation. It’s best to be transparent and eliminate any perception of rejection. For example, when employees say, “I saw your request, but I prefer to keep my social media private. I hope you can understand,” their co-workers will likely respect that preference.

Not Feel Guilty About Their Decision

If their job doesn’t require them to be on a public platform, they’re entitled to keep their personal lives to themselves, regardless of what everyone else is doing. Online relationships (or lack thereof) should have no bearing on real-life relationships.

Consider Different Content for Different Platforms

If employees want to connect with your colleagues on a professional level while keeping their cat photos private, professional platforms like LinkedIn can be the answer. These types of platforms can connect colleagues and keep them up to date on what’s happening in the industry.

Like the saying goes “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” what we post on the internet stays on the internet. Role-model what good social media practice looks like, and encourage employees to consider these tips. When done right, social media can help employees learn, build relationships and build credibility in the workplace. You just need to help them #thinkbeforetheyshare.

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