Social media may have started as a way to stay in touch with friends and family, but over time it has spilled into our professional lives, too.

Employers and recruiters increasingly read employees’ social media accounts so it’s essential to consider what your profiles say about you professionally. Do you really want to give your employer, co-workers or boss a no-holds-barred insight into your personal life?

The following tips should help you walk the blurred lines between your personal and professional self online.

Be careful who your friends are

Connecting with everyone you know on as many networking platforms as possible is generally a bad idea. Think carefully about how you use each platform and who you connect with. For example, sending friend requests to your entire department when you use Facebook as a place to vent work issues is unlikely to get you promoted. Make sure your privacy settings are set high enough to protect your comments from reaching the wrong people – whether that is colleagues, managers or customers.

If you think a social media post may be contentious, then you probably shouldn’t post it
This does not stop them requesting to be your friend, of course. While it might seem awkward to ignore or reject friend requests, it is totally reasonable to do so; just to explain that to them that you prefer to keep Facebook for non-work social circles. Or alternatively, accept the request but create a restricted profile so they can’t see your tagged photos or personal posts.

Set up alternative profiles

While LinkedIn is a social network aimed at professionals, it comes with its own set of problems: if you are looking for a new job your current boss – a LinkedIn connection – might notice your increased activity and abundance of new external contacts on the platform. If you are in this situation, you can change your settings to private, so your boss won’t see your new connections or updates. Alternatively, consider setting up a second profile, using initials or a pseudonym so you can make new contacts without compromising your existing position.

Similarly, if you are unsure about connecting with colleagues on Facebook but still want an easy way of sharing information with them, consider setting up a different profile for work use, or create a stand-alone group that can be used for professional conversations only.

If in doubt – play it safe

For those who have social media responsibilities as part of their role, it is essential to speak in a tone that portrays the right image. While Twitter may be a playground for jokes and spats, it’s a fine line when the account is also used professionally.

It is always wise to err on the side of caution on any social media platform. If you think a post may be contentious, then it is probably a risk too far. For both personal or professional accounts, it is always wise to think about who your potential audience is and whether the post is appropriate.

Google yourself

Social media has changed the way companies find talent, with recruiters now actively using social media the various sites to research prospective employees. This means your online brand needs to squeaky clean.

Google your name and see what information about you is in the public domain. Are those Instagram snaps from your of stag weekend hidden from public view? Is the information on your LinkedIn profile up-to-date and consistent with what you have given in job applications?

Facebook also has a useful tool that enables you to see what your profile looks like to the public. When checking your public profiles, try to see yourself from a recruiter’s perspective. Would you employ you?

Get to know the company policy

There can be a fair amount of confusion over what constitutes acceptable social media behaviour to an employer both inside and outside of work. Many organisations have responded to this by drawing up their own social media policies. As an employee it is vital that you read up on this and the associated disciplinary measures, so you can avoid any potential issues from the get-go.

Be aware of cyberbullying

With the many benefits that social media can bring to the workplace, the rise of cyberbullying should not be overlooked as a modern-day problem.

If you find yourself at the sharp-end of cyberbullying it is important that you don’t ignore the situation. Avoid retaliation at all costs, keep evidence of everything you have seen and block the perpetrator from any of your social accounts so their access to you is limited. If you are unable to sort this out through a polite and calm conversation, don’t hesitate in taking the problem to management or HR.

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