jimmyFacebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, and the other social networking websites have supplanted the water cooler as the place to go when you need a break from your work day. I suppose for many of us in this increasingly virtual world having a chat with a cyber friend brings some meaning, if not a respite from the grind of work.

Yet, I am stunned at the time that my social network friends spend on these sites. They must be spending many hours every day posting goofy photos, useless links, and smarmy comments about others. If only their bosses knew.

Actually, their bosses do know. Increasingly, companies are monitoring the behavior of employees who post regularly on social networks. Human Resources, with help from the guys in IT, can data mine the social websites to find prospective employees. Additionally, they can function as a data source for background checks, so beware what you post. The world is watching.

I agree that the social networks provide businesses and monetary benefits to the individual. With that in mind, here are a few tips:

  • Be friendly but don’t be stupid. Be careful about who you allow in your network since friendship is about quality not quantity.
  • Keep your profile page simple. Try not to overload the page with goofy widgets, bells, and whistles.
  • Post tasteful photos only. Pictures of you and your friends in a drunken stupor from last weekend could prove to be hazardous to your career.
  • Avoid trashing your friends, classmates, and employers.
  • Use spell-check and write in English. Text-speak can be unbecoming to a professional.
  • Always respond to your friends’ requests and messages.
  • Be sure to set your privacy settings so that only people approved by you can see your profile and photos.
  • Never use profanity.
  • This might seem obvious but never bash your current, potential or even last job as horrible as it might be or might have been. People have lost opportunities because of this type of carelessness.
  • Beware your company’s Social Media Employee Policies. Some firms have disallowed all social media references about the company. In some cases, unauthorized use can cause immediate termination.

John Bradley Jackson

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