More people than ever are using some form of social media daily. Pew Research studies show that 73 percent of adults across the United States have at least one social media account. As communication norms and the accessibility of information sharing shift, it can be difficult to establish boundaries for over-sharing.
Using online platforms (such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) can blur the lines between private life and work life. Essentially, without realizing it, social media accounts create a person’s individual “brand” for others to see and draw assumptions. These assumptions (right or wrong) influence key decisions that can affect the individual.
In private and public industry, many employers routinely check potential candidates’ online “brand” prior to holding interviews or offering positions. Gone are the days of resume reviewing and holding interviews based solely on the individual’s skills. Employees are hired for their “fit” into an organization (including skill-sets, personality, relationship building and emotional intelligence). Part of determining this “fit” includes the individual’s online “branding”. Furthermore, employees are “ambassadors” (officially or unofficially) for their organization. This means that the conduct of employees inside and outside of work are direct reflections on their organization.
Social media accounts are easily accessible and searchable online. Hiring managers sometimes face dilemmas when hiring. While there is no requirement to Google-search candidates, there are some rules that determine when and where employers are legally allowed to view information that they find. The unfortunate truth is that it may be impossible to clearly determine if your social media profiles were viewed and used to create a bias within the employer’s hiring decision.
What can you do to prevent this from happening to you?
The best way to enhance your online branding is to understand what impressions you are making to your audience. Taking thoughtful control of how and when you are sharing information can prevent most misconceptions. A simpler way to approach social media postings is to ask yourself, “Would I share this comment or picture with a stranger?” If the answer is no, then you probably do not want to post it online.
In addition, the following suggestions can help when sharing information on social media:
Be sure to:
- Establish boundaries between private-life and work-life.
- Set limits on who can view and access your information.
- Think carefully about what you share and how it can be interpreted by others.
- Use social media during personal time (outside of the workplace).
- Review your organization’s policy regarding social media.
- Using social media while working (including viewing, liking, commenting, etc.).
- Discussing political issues or opinions (these may be governed by the Hatch Act).
- Discussing work related topics on social media.
- Leaving your accounts open for public viewing.
- Posting offensive content (i.e. viewed as obscene, threatening, intimidating, harassing or bullying).
Social media can be a great outlet for networking, socializing and keep in touch with friends. It is a good idea to think about what perception you are putting online for the world to see and judge. Ultimately, how you use these platforms are your responsibility.
Andy Reitmeyer is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. He is the Associate Director for the Engagement and Retention office, Internal Revenue Service. He is responsible for leading engagement strategies for IRS. He has been part of the IRS Engagement and Retention office since its inception. Andy’s tenure with IRS includes numerous domestic and international senior leadership roles. Andy earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Point Park University, a Juris Doctor from Taft University and a Certificate in Executive Leadership from Cornell University. In addition, he has a French Language Diploma from the French Government. Andy is a graduate of the IRS Executive Readiness Program. You can read his posts here.