Social Media in the Workplace

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One of the best tools we have access to today, is social media.  It provides us access to the news, sports scores, celebrity gossip, and the ability to connect with friends, family, and coworkers all over the world.  There are certainly pitfalls to social media (spending way too much time looking at Twitter), but the benefits outweigh the negatives.

How does social media fit into Corporate America? 

Well, it fits in nicely if you are in a social media marketing or customer service role.  But it also can play a factor no matter what position you are in.  For me, when I started in Corporate America, I had many questions regarding social media use and how it related to my coworkers and my day-to-day job.  We’ll address some of those questions here:

Can I use social media at work?

So long as you are not missing meetings or making your work suffer, yes.  It really is no secret that everyone is on social media sites, so there is no point in hiding that fact.  As a new employee, you have the mindset that your every move is being watched and you do not want to give off a negative impression by spending time scrolling through your Facebook feed.  This is funny because there are many times that I have seen employees, who, I assumed would be fully invested in their work and not care about social media, are doing the same thing.  So the perception piece of being a millennial who uses social media at work is not really valid - everyone does it to some extent.  Be mindful, however, not to be on social media all the time.  Then you are proving the perception correct.

While you were an undergrad, you used social media whenever you feel like it.  Sometimes you used it when you were not supposed to, like during a lecture.  Corporate America is not all too different, as there aren’t rules and restrictions for when you can and cannot use social media.  Use common sense (ie. don’t tweet during meetings) for social media use and you will be fine.

A coworker added me as a friend/followed me - should I accept them?

This is a weird situation at first.  If a business partner from a vendor or your manager add you on Facebook, can you really say no?  And if you do say no, does that damage your working relationship with them?  Keep in mind that your social media profile is yours.  You control what you post and who has access to see it.  If you do not want someone, even your manager, to see your Facebook page, then don’t accept their friend request.  You can just let it sit there in your pending friend requests.  There is really no harm about doing this.  If your manager brings it up to you and says “why didn’t you accept my friend request?” you can let them know you prefer to keep your social media profiles for personal use.  If you are honest about the reason, everyone should respect that, and there should be no impact on your working relationship.  On the other side of this, if you want to add a colleague as a friend on Facebook, feel free to do it.  Just be prepared if they don’t feel comfortable accepting your friend request.

While you were in undergrad (at least for me), you met someone and added them on your preferred social media channel.  If there was someone you didn’t really have interest in connecting with, you didn’t connect with them.  The same principles exist after graduation.  There really is no need to change the way you connect on social media just because you are in Corporate America.

What value is there in being friends/followers of my coworkers on social media sites?

Just like in undergrad with people from class or in the dorms, it provides you with deeper connections.  Since you already know your coworkers in the workplace, it allows you to gain an understanding of their interests and who they are outside of the office.  I have found, as a result of being Facebook friends with a handful of my coworkers, that I have gotten to know them better and vice versa.  It is a great way to share something about yourself or what you did last weekend - your coworkers could see this and then strike up a conversation, which can, ultimately, be beneficial for your working relationships.

I have a lot of content on my social media sites that is not work appropriate - should I remove it?

Your social media sites are a reflection of who you are - if that is someone who enjoys going to the bar with their friends (that’s me!), then your social media will likely reflect your actions.  This may mean there are photos of you holding a beer in your hand.  As an undergrad (at least as an underage undergrad), I was told taking photos while drinking alcohol was a terrible thing to do (at times, professors made it seem like it would be the end of the world and I would never get a job if I shared a photo of me at a party, but here I am today).  While I do not recommend advertising yourself in every picture drinking a beer, it is really not the end of the world.  Should you clean up any photos or posts that you consider to be too risqué or damaging?  Absolutely. But you do not need to change who you are or how you portray yourself on social media just because you work in Corporate America.

As an undergrad, you probably care less about how you brand yourself on social media.  This is one area where it is important to be a bit more cognizant about once your transition to Corporate America.  Still be true to yourself, but be aware of the message you are putting into the public.

Social media use in Corporate America is not much different than it was during undergrad.  You have the choice to use it when and how you please.  If you do not wish to use it or do not wish to be friends with coworkers on social media platforms, you do not have to.  Don’t overthink social media and how it fits into work.  Use it as you feel necessary and it will integrate into your work and life naturally.

Thought Starters

  • What can you do to improve your brand on social media?
  • Are you concerned about your past social media use and how that will impact your present or future at a company?