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Social Networking at Work – Parameters

January 29, 2009

In a previous post, I talked about how I feel about social networking at work – that it’s a great opportunity for employees to be able to interact and converse with our customers and others in the industry. 

That said, there are some times where social networking activitiesjust aren’t cool.  What started this was when someone brought up questions about employees engaging on these sites during the working day.  I’d certainly think that participating in some social networking activities has to be a part of our job as marketers.   But when shouldn’t we be doing it?  There are some instances where it just isn’t cool.  Please know that I’m not talking about what was portrayed yesterday, because if you read it and thought someone was being called out for inappropriate behavior and I was agreeing, they weren’t and I wasn’t.  In fact, I thought it was cool that the updates were real time, and gave an idea of what the person was doing at work, which was listening to me drone on and on.  🙂

But there are times when, like drunk dialing, we really need to stop and think about what’s going on.  For instance, on Facebook, your activities are tracked and date stamped.  So, if I were running a weekly staff meeting, I would not be thrilled to see status updates throughout the meeting that someone was sending donuts, poking, throwing sheep, and a million other things.  For that might imply the person was not participating in the meeting.  (Note, this is totally theoretical.  No one in my group has done this, but I have heard this story from, let’s just say, other places.)  Think before you socialize.

I also once talked about need for everyone on Facebook to set up their own rules for friending.  Here’s another one.  If you’re going to friend your boss, maybe you don’t want to be writing about how wasted you are planning on getting Wednesday night, followed by your calling in sick with a stomach flu the next day.  Again, not calling out anyone here, but it’s just common sense, people.  We’re all excited about these things, but when you friend work friends and outside of work friends, know that what you say to one group may not be appropriate or appreciated by the other. 

Likewise, with blogging, if you let your coworkers know about your blog, know that they will read it, whatever you say in there could be fair game.  Don’t talk about your wild and out of control night out, when the rest of them were working a project you blew off because you had a headache. (This was a cocktail party story that I just loved hearing, because the blogger in question not only denied she wrote that post, but called the person who read it a “rumor-mongering-liar” – juicy office gossip!) 

Also, and this is a fine line here, when you do put yourself out there as a social networker, and by default a representative of your company, you have to know that what you say, even if you portray a disclaimer, could be construed by customers as representing more than just you.  Your products.  Your coworkers.  Your company.  This is where I was called out, for tweets on Twitter about the inauguration.  I could certainly have offended prospective authors, customers and others who may not have agreed with my political views.  Would I do it again?  In that situation, I cannot say I would not have been overcome with the excitement of the day.  But would I continue to express my political views online if I felt it would hurt me or my work?  Probably not.  Growing up in a most liberal state it was shocking to find out that not everyone feels the way I do, and more importantly, are just as passionate about what they believe and want for their country as I am.  Engage that on a personal level, sure, but as a representative of my products, my brands and my company – stop and think.

In my next post (ooh, look, a 3 post arc!  We’re just like Grey’s Anatomy!) I talk about sharing the workload and who should be doing what in the social media workspace.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 29, 2009 9:39 am

    I’m really enjoying this Ellen. Thanks so much.

  2. John permalink
    January 29, 2009 11:46 am

    The rules of engagement are very tricky. Randomness gets misconstrued. Pure business and no personality is dull. And the intimately personal can be dangerous. It’s very difficult to gauge what information you can make public folks from all areas of your life. In my case, my politics are very different from those of my family – so I avoid any mention to preserve family harmony.

  3. January 29, 2009 11:13 pm

    I’m so jealous. I come from a totally conservative state and left it briefly, only to end up in an even more conservative state. Surrounded by evangelicals and red necks – it’s hard for me to believe sometimes that I’m not completely alone in the world.

    Ah. Except for people like you on Twitter being happy about our political turn – I would think the whole damn world was just cynical and angry 24/7.

  4. Liane permalink
    February 11, 2009 4:55 pm

    How did sales respond to your social media presentation? This we have any takers? What media did you discuss? Yes, I want details!

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