Share Just Right: Tips on Early Career Social Media Workplace Solutions
If it would freak out your grandma, just don’t post.
Donna Shea, author and social and emotional learning specialist, says “emotional posting” can be the downfall of a career and prevent you from getting hired in the first place.
“Take a moment, take a breath. Then, maybe hit post,” Shea says.
Being “dramatic and attention-seeking” does not cut it in the workplace. Young adults fresh out of college have to adapt new skills when it comes to sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn and anywhere else that is public and live– or archived–on the Internet.
Nadine Briggs, Shea’s co-author and managing partner in How To Make And Keep Friends, advises, “If you feel you need to say something, wait 24 hours to post it. Never post about anger around your work. It will jeopardize your career.”
This can be hard to comprehend for those entering the workforce after years of perhaps unbridled and unfiltered social media use at whim. Understanding the consequences of what a simple post, photo or video can do to your future is difficult for some to absorb.
And most young adults are on social media.
With more than 1.3 billion Twitter account holders, including 250 million active users in the U.S., stats show that “20 percent of online adults age 25-34 have used Twitter or something like it,” according to Social Media Today.
Facebook has 1.95 billion active users and Instagram Direct has 375 million monthly users as of April 2017.
Even Facebook has a new mission, not just about individuals connecting one to one, but about global partnerships. Its new mission statement is to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced recently at the inaugural Facebook Communities Summit in Chicago., according to WARC.com.
So it might be time for some readjustments for individual social media users as well, especially as it relates to their careers.
“Over the past few years, memes — usually images or videos with text often meant to be funny or sarcastic in nature — have become one of the most popular ways, along with photos and videos, that youth communicate on social media. While some of that communication can be positive, allowing teenagers to explore their own identity development and find a sense of belonging, it can also get teens in trouble,” writes Ana Homayoun in the New York Times.
It’s not so long after the teen years that heavy social media users and texters enter a workplace that not only discourages personal social media use during work hours, but may prohibit it.
Homayoun, author of the forthcoming book, “Social Media Wellness: Helping Teens and Tweens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World,” writes, “Sharing videos, images and memes creates the opportunity for an instantaneous positive feedback loop that can perpetuate poor decision making. In an environment where teens spend around nine hours using some form of online media every day, it doesn’t take long for them to be influenced by an ‘all-about-the-likes’ sense of values that can potentially lead to life-altering decisions.”
Shea suggests that using a different name, perhaps a middle name or a nickname on a Facebook or Twitter account will help. Still, the content should never be hateful, angry, shocking or negative. (More on that here.)
Briggs advises never to write or post about work, politics or religion. That’s because nothing is ever really private online, even when in private groups.
“Stay away from political forums,” Briggs suggests. “You do not want to get argumentative.”
To find out how you are showing up online, Shea suggests you set up a Google alert on your name, so that whenever there is a mention, you will see it. If necessary to put behind you the photos of you at parties holding red cups, Shea suggests you go back into your Facebook account and delete all those photos.
“You have to understand that you will give people the wrong impression of who they think you are,” Shea says.
And as obvious as it sounds, never post a photo of you at the beach if you have called in sick, Shea says.
You also need to deconstruct your motivations and what you are using social media to accomplish. On LinkedIn, are you networking for your career? Then use professional photographs and nothing that could be considered “distasteful,” such as photographs in outfits that are too revealing or casual, or party photos with obvious involvement with alcohol.
Some young adults new in a job also find it hard to put their phones away and refrain from going online while at work, perhaps on the company laptop. This is not advisable.
And even though sharing your story is one of the 9 Leadership Power Tools developed by Gloria Feldt, co-founder and president of Take The Lead, that does not mean sharing everything to everyone all the time. You have to know how to edit, filter and practice restraint when using social media to share your story.
You have to share just right.
“Go cold turkey if it is really bad,” Nadine says. “Or put your phone in your locker at work or in a drawer until the break.”
Most employees are not even aware that a social media post could get them fired.
According to Business Insider, that’s what HubShout’s recent study found. “The survey, which had a sample size of 525, revealed that 71.6 percent of respondents didn’t know that the First Amendment couldn’t protect them from getting fired for their social media activity.”
So these may be worst case scenarios and Shea and Briggs offer great are tips on what to avoid, but what are some suggestions for raising your social media profile in a good and positive way?
“I like posts from young adults that are about their volunteer work or life balance, and how they are contributing to the world,” Shea says.
Briggs agrees. Post optimistic and positive messages that show you are a go-getter.” You can also post informative articles and inspiration from many vetted sites.
Both Briggs and Shea, who operate separate social education centers in social media for youth and young adults in Massachusetts, agree that leadership can determine workplace policies about social media use. A perspective employee should ask about the social media policy just so she does not step into a workplace culture where she is unaware of punitive policies in place.
Still, even established social media policies in the workplace may not be all that effective.
“In a June 2016 survey from Pew Research Center, 77 percent of 2,003 American workers surveyed reported that, despite their employers’ policies against social media use, they still used it anyway,” writes Heather R. Huhman in Entrepreneur.
Huhman writes, “Given such resistance, maybe it’s time to train employees to use social media in a productive manner.” To that end, she suggests social media breaks, and using social media to enhance the relationship between the employees and the employer.
In order to avoid the possibility of sharing too much or damaging your professional reputation — possibly leading you to lose your job—Briggs suggests sometimes you just need to “put the phone down.”
And when in doubt, do the Grandma test. If it would upset her, it’s probably not a good idea.
About the Author
Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldon www.micheleweldon.com