Settling into a new job can be tricky IRL – and straight up confusing online.
A 2012 Millennial Branding Survey found young adults become Facebook friends with an average of 16 of their coworkers, but research suggests we should connect at our own risk. After all, more than half of surveyed workers (51%) said social shows them too much information about their coworkers, according to a recent Pew Research report. And 29% of employees ages 18 to 29 found something on social media that lowered their professional opinion of a colleague.
But the rules of online engagement keep changing as more of us use social networks to actually, you know, network. “Ten years ago, it was taboo to friend your coworkers,” said Winnie Sun, a financial adviser and consultant on Millennial matters. “But nowadays, we’re all building our personal brands and making these connections.”
So Sun and Leonard Kim, a personal branding expert and author of “The Etiquette of Social Media,” spoke to Moneyish about the dos and don’ts of linking with colleagues online.
DON’T: FRIEND ABOVE YOUR PAY GRADE. That means your boss and your company’s C-Suite are off-limits. “You want them to respect you professionally so you can progress forward in your career,” said Kim. But seeing your casual conversations or pictures of you in a bathing suit can shatter that professional image. “And recovering what was lost from that level of respect is going to be quite difficult,” Kim said, who added that colleagues in the same position as you, or who work outside of your department, are more fair game.
The exception to this rule is LinkedIn. “LinkedIn is the same as if you walked into your new office building, and started going up to people and saying, ‘Hi, I’m working here now, and I’m excited to come on board,’” Sun said.
DO: USE THIS ‘MEAL TEST’ FOR HELP. Different social networks suggest different levels of intimacy. LinkedIn and Twitter are ways to introduce yourself, share industry news and support others in your field. “But Facebook and Instagram are like going out to lunch and dinner,” said Sun, where you’re sharing pieces of your personal life like news about your kids and your pets, or pictures from your vacation. “Snapchat is happy hour,” she added. “If we’re close enough to grab drinks and cut loose a bit, then we can connect on Snapchat.” And don’t send friend requests to colleagues with private pages – that’s a clear indicator they don’t want to mix business with pleasure.
DON’T: FRIEND REQUEST PEOPLE YOUR FIRST DAY ON THE JOB. If you haven’t had lunch or a conversation with colleagues in real life, it’s off-putting to friend them online. “The time frame for connecting with them [online] is after you build a personal bond. I’d recommend a minimum of one, but at least two months,” said Kim. “Following someone on Twitter is a lot less creepy than immediately adding someone on Facebook.”
DO: TEST THE WATERS WITH LINKEDIN. If someone green lights your connection request on LinkedIn, it opens the door for stronger social media relationships later. “If they accept, send a quick note saying, ‘Thank you so much for connecting. I’m excited to come on board,’” said Sun. “And if they respond to that … you know that person has a warmer personality.” And if the conversation continues, Kim suggests writing back after a few months to say that you might send him or her a Facebook invitation to continue networking, and take it from there.
DO: LOOK AT YOUR CONTENT. Are you really comfortable with coworkers seeing your posts? If you use Facebook and Twitter for business, like posting industry news and insights, then adding your coworkers makes sense. But you don’t want to give professional peers access to Snapchat or even Instagram and FB pages where you’re sharing provocative pix or posting statuses where you argue, put people down or suffer emotional breakdowns.