The seven most deadliest sins of social networking at work

While social networking can be a powerful means of communicating on an individual and organisational basis, employees don’t always make the connection between their professional and personal online presence. Employers, meanwhile, are often concerned about the potential damage that social media posts might have on their organisation’s reputation, with managers and HR often the ones expected to pick up the pieces when things go wrong. The following article offers some practical advice on how we can all improve and maintain our credibility online.

Social networking can be good for you and your organisation. Used well, it can be an efficient and effective way to connect with like-minded professionals, share knowledge, promote your personal brand and your organisation’s expertise. There are, however, some common clangers that people make when using social media tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Here’s our top seven social networking sins to avoid.

Flooding your network with constant updates

Chances are you don’t go into work and provide your colleagues with a real-time update of everything that’s happening. When it comes to social media, however, one in six of us admits to ‘oversharing’. From what you had for breakfast to every last speaker soundbite from that conference you’re attending – ask yourself – do your connections really want to know all this stuff? Constantly liking and sharing others’ comments can also drive your network mad.

Better to aim for no more than a handful of carefully considered updates a day. Focus on adding value to your network as much as possible, and use your skills and expertise to help others out. If you can’t control your impulse to share, then use your control settings to manage what your work-related connections can see.

Not providing a profile picture on LinkedIn

When you connect with people online, they naturally want to be able to see what you look like. Your profile picture is important for a number of reasons:
•it makes you real, and helps to build trust
•your profile is 11 times more likely to be viewed if you have a picture
•if you have a common name, it helps people to find the right Smith or Jones
•it helps people identify you easily, if you then go on to meet up in person

Top Tip: Make sure the picture you do post is appropriate. Poolside holiday shots, pouting, or posing with your pets may not be the best way to build your business profile online.

Not filling out a profile summary on Twitter and LinkedIn

If people take the time to connect with you online, they expect to find some decent information about you and what you do. In fact, you’re 40 times more likely to turn up in an online search if your online profile is complete. Providing a skills summary and your current and past work experience makes it easier for like-minded professionals, organisations or even recruitment companies to find you. Avoid corporate waffle or hackneyed terms, though. Motivated, passionate and creative are currently some of the most overused …

Focusing on the quantity, not quality, of your connections

Many of us are more hung up on the magic number of our online connections than we care to admit. (The ‘average’ Twitter user has 126 followers, just so you know!)  How many is too many will vary from person to person, and the nature of the work you do is also likely to have some bearing. But too much focus on quantity can make you feel overwhelmed by your social media accounts. It can also mean you don’t always know enough about the people you connect with, and the messages (or spam) you are helping them to share across your network.

A periodic root and branch audit and clear out of your social media contacts is a good idea. If you don’t share a common profession, skill or interest, or have never worked with or met with a particular contact, then it might be time to press ‘delete’.

Blowing your own trumpet too hard

While it’s important to come across as confident and credible online, there’s a difference between this and sounding smug. With 68% of Facebook ‘friend’ deletions due to bragging, it seems we’re not always getting the balance right.

By all means, highlight some key personal achievements, but avoid using your work accounts to talk too much about yourself. Social media expert Guy Kawasaki also says calling yourself an expert is a social media no-no: ‘’If you are a guru or an expert, people will know it.’’ The best way to get yourself noticed for all the right reasons is through the quality of your posts, and the online conversations you have.

Failing to get the basics right

While communicating online is often short and sharp, this doesn’t mean it should be sloppy. Try to check every online post you make, no matter how brief, before it goes live. In particular:
•look for spelling or grammar errors
•make sure images and photos are in the right format, and credited if necessary
•test all web links before you post, if possible

And if your communication is particularly important, ask someone to give it the final once-over.

Lack of self censorship

Too many people post in haste, in anger or even inebriated. But this can cause untold problems for you and your company. On average, we delete 10 of our social network posts every year. But once any inappropriate comments or pictures are out there, they can be there for all time. Bear in mind too, that a significant proportion of hiring managers now use social media to check out candidates. And many are prepared to discount candidates based on what they find. (9) So consider your online reputation before you post.

Politics, religion and complaints about your company or colleagues are topics best avoided. At the very least, check your privacy settings to control who can see what. And if you can’t resist a good rant online, keep these musings for your personal, rather than work, social media accounts.

About the author – Catriona MacLeod

Catriona’s background is in writing, advertising and communications. she started my writing career as a copywriter for a full service agency, before moving to GoodPractice as an editor 10 years ago. Catriona is currently Learning and Performance Support Manager with the company. She work’s with clients of all types and sizes to create resources that meet the learning needs of their busy leaders and managers. She is also responsible for overseeing and co-ordinating the organisation’s editorial activities.

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