Social media and its role in our professional lives is complicated. Offices take varying stances on whether they allow it, while others make social participation mandatory for employees.
The benefits of maintaining a professional presence online are clear. Social channels done right can validate your brand and help you land a job or connect with “the right people.”
But shifting norms have come with some new expectations. Do we need to be that active on Facebook and Twitter at work?
We’re honestly not sure.
As it stands, there are plenty of guides across the web from Flex Jobs to Monster to the NYT that stress the importance of keeping up an active online presence.
Some say that opting out can be seen as a red flag for employers, but curating a personal brand when you’re not trying to become an influencer is extra work.
Below, we’ll look at some of the benefits and minefields associated with social media and its role in the office.
Social media and the workplace: a delicate balance
Social employees tend to be more engaged
HBR found that workers who used social media at work tended to be more engaged. Think about it; these are the folks actively making connections during their workday. This group looks at their role in the broader sense; following trends in the industry and working to improve their reputation.
They’re also always on the hunt for the next best thing. That same HBR piece mentioned that social butterflies tended to leave their jobs more often than their less engaged peers.
People without a social presence risk appearing like they don’t care or they don’t know their way around the internet. Through social media channels, employees can bolster their connections in the industry, which is especially useful in sales, marketing, PR, event planning.
More and better connections can be good for the company. Benefits come in the form of increased leads and better recruits, as well as competitive intelligence.
So, great for companies, then? What about regular workers?
Well, on the employee side, research has found that employees who feel comfortable fostering these digital connections are more open to collaborating with others or researching new ideas they might not be familiar with in real life.
What that means is, if you’re a social networker, you might be more productive.
Making meaningful connections on LinkedIn, for example, could help you stay in contact with people who can boost your career, while general usage keeps you abreast of the latest trends in the space.
It might make you smarter
No cat videos and fake news aren’t going to magically boost your brain power. But using social media, thoughtfully opens you up to a whole world of new information.
Intelligent digital conversations require research and strong communication skills. Meaning, if you’re talking with industry experts in your LinkedIn group, you’ll likely be looking at credible
While social media might be best known at this point for fake news, just about all of the platforms can help you uncover new content, learn more about other companies and increase your reach.
Finding jobs is one of the more practical applications of social media.
The downside is, when you’re using social media to find a job, there may be some expectation that you’re actually, well, good at it. As such, numbers matter.
You’ll want to take some time to build your network which is understandably daunting. Start by reaching out to people you know—add people from your alma mater, people you’ve worked with in the past and include a personal note along with your invitation.
LinkedIn, of course, is the more obvious job hunting platform, but Twitter might prove useful as well. Twitter has feeds dedicated to advertising jobs, though you’ll need to sift through a fair amount of noise to find opportunities.
Career Builder has put together some simple steps for adding Twitter to your job hunting process.
One of the biggest complaints from hiring managers is that job hunters aren’t prepared when they walk into the interview.
Instagram can be helpful in that arena, as you can quickly learn more about not only what the company does, but what their culture and branding are like.
You can also use the platform to engage with companies you like. Sometimes brands share open positions on their social channels before posting to job boards.
But what about coworker relations?
On the one hand, the idea of combining social media and coworkers is a recipe for disaster.
Do you really want these people intermixing on the same digital playground as your family, your friends from college? The people you weren’t friends with in high school?
But, there are some benefits to braving the social minefield, too. For example, coworkers can use social media to interact with each other, promote each other’s accomplishments, and strengthen bonds.
A recent survey from Microsoft found that incorporating social media into workplace communication strategies would make their jobs easier.
Social can be a way to share ideas and boost communications, especially with remote teams. But, the case for limiting those social interactions to Slack channels, LinkedIn and other work-specific platforms is a strong one.
Stressing about whether you want to accept a Facebook request from Janet in accounting is kind of a bummer. This article from Fast Company recommends simply doing nothing when someone sends you a Facebook request you feel weird about.
Your personal Instagram or Facebook might not contain any damaging information, but some workers don’t want colleagues to access images of their after-hours selves.
In short, though, the main benefits of using social media seem to be linked to those users who actually want to use the tools. You’ll see some good results if you’re using the internet to learn new information and make meaningful connections.
No matter what industry you’re in, a social media presence can pay off in the form of new contacts and job leads. That said, if you’re not into it, try maintaining a professional-looking LinkedIn page rather than forcing yourself to keep up with Instagram and Facebook.
In the end, getting social can help you succeed in the workplace. Social media, of course, helps you build connections that move your career forward both in and out of your organization.