“What’s the right balance between using social media for advice and being discreet about work issues in order to remain professional?”
To answer this question, here are some tips Isaac Morehouse and T.K. Coleman discussed in a recent episode of Office Hours.
1. Be careful with social media likes.
Social media can be a powerful tool to use for professional development. But it’s also very easy to get a lot of attention on posts that harm your personal brand and professional image. It can be hard to hear that a post isn’t the best thing for your personal brand when you get 50 likes on a post about hating your job. There’s always more to the story than those likes.
All those people who liked your post about hating your job would probably be happy to grab lunch with you. But are they more or less likely to go to battle with you because of the way you just represented what you are like to work with and how you approach your professional life on social media? Just because someone likes your Facebook post doesn’t mean that they respect you more as a professional because of that post.
2. Change your frame.
Just because social media is a useful tool to get answers to questions or advice and insight doesn’t necessarily mean that we are using it in the best way possible. The way you frame the problem is important. There’s always a way to frame a problem in a discreet and professional way that goes past simply removing the names of the people in the situation.
3. Professional is relative.
There are some jobs where coming into work without a suit on is unprofessional. In others, not so much. Professional is what is acceptable within the culture of your workplace. Even if there’s nothing objectively wrong with a post, if it’s costing you social capital with your colleagues and your customers, then you might be in the realm of unprofessional.
Your role can also play a large part in how your post would be viewed on social media. For example, if a doctor asks people on Facebook for advice about one of his patient’s medical problems (even if it’s vague and impersonal), that screams unprofessional. Why? Because it violates our expectation of the role a doctor plays.
4. Try posting in a private group.
Another thing to think about is potentially utilizing a private Facebook group full of the kind of people who are likely to give you good insight.
For example, say you are setting yourself a challenge to read 10 books this month and need recommendations. If you make a general Facebook post, you might unintentionally come across like you just want everyone to know how great you are for setting the challenge for yourself. But asking in a private group full of book lovers lowers that chance.
If you are a teacher asking for advice about a student and want to avoid violating expectations of your position, try asking in a private Facebook group for teachers. This way, you can gain valuable insights without the risk of harming your brand by violating people’s expectations of your position.