According to Wikipedia, Social media are "primarily Internet-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio." Social media are becoming increasingly popular in the world, and this obsession is slowly transforming the workplace. This phenomenon is changing the way people think, live, and communicate with each other. It is changing the way we do business. Professionals need to be aware of this new form of media and how the use of it can affect their professional life in both positive and negative ways.
According to its website, http://www.twitter.com, Twitter is a “service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?”
Twitter assumes that basic updates on a person’s life are valuable to those they associate with. It can be used as a way to keep up with family members, distant friends, and sometimes even someone as close to you as your roommate. Many feel more connected to their Twitter friends when they are continuously updated on random details of that person’s life.
The site suggests a Twitter user can stay connected with their place of work through updates on important information about their colleagues. Twitter can be a useful type of social media in the workplace. If you are running late for a meeting, you colleagues will know. If you are meeting with a client, your colleagues will know. When you finish a project or a report, your colleagues will know. Even when the coffee pot is out, your colleagues will know before they have to get up and check the break room themselves. If your colleagues are well-connected on Twitter, it can be an extremely helpful communication tool.
However, there are several ways Twitter can be detrimental to a professional. Here are some tips to avoid an embarrassing mishap in the workplace.
- Always be mindful of who you are writing to. You might be considering your friend when you post something and completely forget that one of your superiors is also reading your Twitter account. It would be highly embarrassing if the boss found out through Twitter that you were secretly taking a nap when you were supposed to be working. Keep in mind that even when you are not at work, like on the weekends, your coworkers will still have access to your posts.
- Be careful of posting opinions of your work or your work day. Coworkers might lose respect for you if they know how much you hate your job and you hate being in the building with them. Never say something disrespectful about a fellow employee; the Internet is essentially a public forum and you never know who might see it.
- Be careful of posting your opinions in general. You might detest Barack Obama and everything he stands for, but for all you know, your cubicle neighbor was canvassing the neighborhood to promote the Campaign for Change all weekend. You do not want to create unnecessary tensions with the people you work with.
- Do not release too much information. There are some things your coworkers just do not want to know about you. Never say anything you would not tell the person to his or her face. Releasing intimate details about your life, no matter how insignificant, could potentially make a coworker feel awkward around you in the future.
Always remember that an amicable, professional relationship between you and your coworkers is vital. Twitter is an interesting site and has the potential to be useful in the workplace, but do not let it your use of it cross the line.
Facebook is a site that was founded for social networking purposes. It has gained notoriety in recent years due to organized events being mentioned on the site. If you do use it, the following etiquette should be adhered to:
- Do not upload a picture of yourself: it can be taken on the web by anyone else.
- Do not make offensive posts - since these are public forum. Slanging matches are not to be carried out either.
- Use of it should be more akin to Friends Reunited, but do not use it to post things publicly (i.e. on people's "walls") but use it as an advertising tool.
- If your real name is excessively long or double-barrelled, shorten it, e.g. John Smith-Jones would become John Smith etc. but not the full name. This is for privacy reasons and to prevent search engine robots and scrapers getting your real name.
Follow these and your profile should be safe for employers to view.
Myspace is a social media tool that allows users with accounts to create personal profiles based on interests and activities, add friends, send messages, maintain a blog, post bulletins, create and join groups, update statuses and moods, post a limited amount of photos and videos, and write on friends’ profiles. Myspace obviously offers several opportunities for communication between friends and other members. But the Place for Friends should be just that - a place to communicate with friends and family outside the workplace, but not with fellow colleagues.
- Since the launch of the more conservative Facebook, Myspace has received a somewhat negative stigma. Often used as a place for young people to solicit parties and inappropriate behavior, the site is geared more towards pre-teens and adolescents than working adults (with the exception of people who work in the radio and motor industry, and broadcasting ,i.e. television industries)
- The site’s design also does not lend itself to professional use. Members can design their own pages with little to no restrictions on appearance or conformity. Overly decorated pages can appear unprofessional and juvenile. Other social networking sites, such as Facebook or Twitter, place more restrictions on the user’s ability to change the appearance of their main user page, giving the sites a more polished and professional look.
- The site is also cluttered with advertisements, making it difficult to communicate in an efficient manner. Pop-ups, videos, pictures, and flashing text are distracting. Users who are on the job need quick, reliable sources of communication and the slow pace Myspace often runs at makes this difficult.
- Myspace also offers too many venues for communication to be effective. Messages sent for the workplace need to be quick, succinct, and easy to find. Because Myspace offers messages, wall postings, blogs, videos, and bulletins, it becomes difficult to decide which medium will best deliver the message. Other social media networks, like Twitter, offer only one or two means of communication, which allows the message to travel from point A to point B much more quickly.
If you do wish to create and maintain a Myspace account for work purposes, be sure that photos and videos you post are appropriate, keep your profile simple and clean, and make sure blog posts and wall postings are easy to understand and professional.
Flickr is an online photo management and sharing application that provides its users with an easy way to upload, edit, and share pictures with friends and families. Unlike other social media sites, Flickr is based upon the sharing of visual images, not just the sharing of information.
In other media outlets like Facebook or Myspace, the chronology and organization of pictures is determined by the owner/original uploader. But with Flickr, friends, families, and associates have the ability to organize another user's content. They can organize it based on a specific business preference or by what types of pictures they want to see.
When considering Flickr for professional use, it is most popular for businesses that sell, produce, or maintain something visual. This means that Real Estate agents can use Flickr to sell houses. Or Graphic design agencies can use it to sell or promote their new lines. Or maybe even photo journalists can use it to communicate with their editors during a trip. With Flickr, the "audience" of the pictures has the ability to organize them and give fast feed back too.
Plaxo is very similar to Facebook. However, its primary usage is for the working professional. There are a few users who use it for recreational purposes, but the majority of Plaxo's users are professionals looking to network and get their name and/or product out there. So it would be ill-advised to put excessive personal/recreational information on Plaxo, in case a current or prospective employer were to see it.
- Plaxo was founded primarily as an address book to network with other people. It is home to 40 million users with address books.
- Much like Facebook's "wall," Plaxo has a feature called "Plaxo Pulse." It is used mainly for sharing information with other users. For a writer, this would be a good opportunity to link to some of your work in a simple and easy-to-use fashion.
- One thing that does differ from Facebook, however, is Plaxo's calendar. Facebook has no such feature. The calendar is a good way to share your schedule with other people, such as co-workers and supervisors. It is also an easy way to keep up with your own assignments and tasks in an electronic form.
- Like Facebook, Plaxo allows you to network with other professionals. Unlike Facebook, though, networks are mainly through employer. Facebook allows individuals to network through geographic region, school, or employer. When networking is done through an employer, it appears more professional.
Unlike MySpace and Facebook—sites founded purely for social networking—LinkedIn is an increasingly popular place for professionals to connect with others within their fields and related industries. Users put up Profiles that are abbreviated resumes, containing their current and former places of employment, educational background, links to any company or personal websites, and public profile. Connections are made to other users through issuing and accepting invitations. Through primary and secondary connections, users can link up with others, be introduced to others through the connections, and explore available jobs. Groups can also be formed, based on common interests, educational institutions, or employment sites.
- Basic personal accounts are free on LinkedIn.
- Upgraded accounts are available that increase the number of Introductions one can make and enable a feature called InMails. These are private messages that users can send to other users about business and career opportunities.
- If a user is receiving an InMail from someone not in their network (connections), the sender’s identity is hidden until the message has been accepted.
- LinkedIn includes features common in social networking sites, such as what types of updates your connections have made to their accounts or networks today, yesterday, or last week. However, walls for making comments and places to post photographs are missing here, as the main focus of LinkedIn is professional rather than social networking.
- News articles relevant to a company are posted by the site and can be posted by users. These articles can be also recommended by users. This triggers an alert to go out to coworkers at a company.