Look Busy! 5 Rules for Social Networking at Work

Your boss is worried. And her boss is worried, and so is her boss’ boss and so on… They’re all worried about Facebook and what you’re doing there.

More than 50% the largest corporations in America are so worried that they do not allow their employees to visit any social networking sites at work. No Facebook. No Twitter. Not even any LinkedIn! That could get pretty depressing.

Some of their worry is justifiedeven military officials have been caught posting classified information online. But a complete social networking ban is probably unenforceable, as the US Army has discovered. And in a new survey, we’re finding that over 50% of employees are still using Facebook at work.

Even if employers forbid social networking on company PCs, are they going to monitor what you’re doing on your smart phone?

Banning social media may even lead to a DECREASE in employee productivity. Yes, a DECREASE. Limited social network use has been linked to an overall increase in employees’ concentration and productivity. And companies like Dell have proven than embracing social networking can improve the bottom line.

Now, if your employer bans social networking for security reasons, that makes more sense.

Joan Goodchild of CSO Online lays out some excellent arguments against using Facebook specifically in her article “10 Security Reasons to Quit Facebook (And One Reason to Stay On).” And F-Secure’s Chief Research Officer Mikko Hyppönen refuses to open a Facebook account for security reasons, though he’s a fan of Twitter.

Despite the risks, I believe that shutting employees out from social networks disconnects them from what Ralph Waldo Emerson called “the current of events.” Employers can’t afford to keep employees who aren’t connected to rapidly evolving business climate around them. And employees— in an economy where anything that can be automated will be— shouldn’t neglect the opportunity to develop a unique online identity.

But if you’re going to engage in online communities during work hours, it’s your obligation to be safe and savvy about it. Here are a few specific steps you should take to protect yourself, your employer and your job:

1. Know your company’s social media policy and follow it.
Are you allowed to use social networks on company PCs? How often? Which sites? Should you comment as employee or about company matters? What company information are you allowed to share? Who should you consult if you have a question about any of these issues? All of these questions and more should be answered in your company’s social media policy. If you have never read your company’s policy, do it now. If your company doesn’t have a policy, suggest that they create one. Here are some examples. If the policy isn’t realistic, make a case for a policy that works.

2. Use different passwords for your work and your social media accounts.
Smart passwords matter. Annika has written about the importance of creating and remembering strong passwords.  A vulnerable password on your Facebook account can jeopardize your personal reputation and friends. Don’t magnify the risk by using the same password for your corporate network.

3. Always log off when you leave your desk.
It’s smart security to log off your computer when you leave your desk. This is even more important when you have your social networking accounts open. If you leave your desk with your browser open to Facebook, you’re begging for a goofy co-worker to post a ridiculous status update in your name. In fact, it’s good policy to log off any site when you’re not using it. You probably don’t want the reputation of being the guy or gal who is always on Facebook, even when you’re sleeping.

4. Avoid unnecessary risks.
Don’t click on or forward links you are unsure about—check any URL with F-Secure’s free Browsing Protection. If someone is asking you for financial help or to spread the word about some controversy, check it out when you get home. Most importantly, leave installing software to the experts. If you need to install a plug-in to see something linked off a Twitter page, you probably don’t need to see that page.

5. Think about what you share with whom.
You know that you should never post anything on the web that you wouldn’t want to see in a newspaper. Consider anything that you post —including items you limit to only “friends” or “friends of friends”— to potentially be in the public domain. This list of 11 things you should never do online provides some great guidelines about what not to share.

Things that you’re fine with being public now may seem embarrassing or even painful later. You may wish for all those pictures of you and your ex or the videos of you and your former coworkers at karaoke would just disappear. But they won’t. So consider who you add to which accounts. Maybe you just want to use Facebook exclusively for non-work friends. Maybe you only want professional connections on LinkedIn. Whatever you do, think before you accept an invitation to connect. And on a site like Twitter, where your tweets are probably open to everyone, think before you share anything.

How do you use social networks at work? Do you have any rules to add? We’d love to know. Take this quick survey and comment below.

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