Social Media at Work: Deciding What to Keep Private

man-thinkingWhen you engage in dialogue on popular social networks like Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin, you’re having a discussion in a public environment. If you have the ability to use popular social networks at work to get your job done, the public nature of social media brings with it marketing benefits, because the interaction can be seen and found by others, who can also share and talk about it, even after you’ve left the conversation.

If you decide to put social media to use at work, you need to be able to determine between conversations that happen in a public environment and conversations that need to be kept more private. If you can exercise that judgment responsibly, you’re in a better position to reap the benefits of social media at work.

A traffic signal is a great way to think about what you should and probably shouldn’t use social media for at work.

shutterstock_150917720What types of conversations would be considered green or, okay to discuss on social media?

It’s generally acceptable to discuss anything about your organization that’s disclosed on your website or printed in your marketing materials. If you can link to it on your company website, you can talk about it, unless you’ve been specifically asked not to.

What’s considered yellow or questionable?

Here’s where good judgment is required and where restrictions to free speech come into play.  If it’s a customer complaint that you think you can resolve, and you’re allowed to provide social customer service, it’s probably okay to resolve the issue publicly on a social network.

If, on the other hand, it’s a complaint about a larger issue which you cannot resolve, it’s best not to respond yourself and instead, refer the issue to your supervisor or the appropriate person at your organization.

If it’s a discussion about a hiring ad your organization has posted, it would be okay to acknowledge the ad, as long as you could link it. But if questions arose about the new position that were not disclosed in the ad, it would not be a good idea to provide that information on a social network.

If a personal contact asked about the performance of your employer’s brand, products or services, it would be okay to respond, so long as you disclosed that you are an employee clearly and conspicuously with your remarks.

What kind of things would be considered off limits or red?

Employees should not use social networks to discuss customers, partners or suppliers by name, or the confidential details of projects or work processes.  Trade secrets or proprietary information is also off limits. Think carefully before you make a social media disclosure, because what you publish online may be available to a broad audience for a very, very long time. When in doubt, leave it out.
This post is an excerpt from our course on Social Media Compliance for Employees.