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To Tweet Or Not To Tweet

Anthony Grijalva, Vice President of Marketing, byline discusses the ever-changing landscape of business relationships and online networks. Read on for the full article and visit the Houston Business Journal to share your commentary.

More employers peruse personal postings

In today’s complex business environment, the boundaries between our professional and private lives are increasingly blurred. While it’s natural for personal relationships to develop among coworkers and colleagues, individuals have traditionally compartmentalized their lives with recognizable parameters separating work from home and family. And, as long as personal behavior never crosses any legal, ethical, or moral boundaries, employers typically respect employees’ privacy.

With the advance of social media, however, our private lives have become open books.

We nonchalantly befriend the most casual acquaintances through online networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, and then, perhaps feeling a little voyeuristic, we view pictures of family beach vacations and follow tweets about wild weekends in Vegas.

Social media allows us to create expansive networks that can be extremely gratifying, whether we’re keeping in touch with distant friends or utilizing our connections for business development. It also raises provocative questions about where the line exists between our private and professional lives, if one still exists at all.

Do LinkedIn contacts belong to a company or its employees? And if they belong to the company, does the time an employee spends on LinkedIn at home warrant overtime pay? What happens when a client becomes a friend on Facebook or an industry colleague starts to follow an employee on Twitter?

It seems innocuous enough, perhaps, but what if that same employee vents through a post on Facebook about the company’s ineffective management or Tweets that they are on a sales call in Jacksonville, Fla. Will the customer view the company less favorably? Could a savvy competitor deduce a company’s sales prospects?

We’ve all become so enamored with the “social” elements of social media, that too often we forget the “media” aspect. Basic media training teaches public communicators to consider their audience when crafting their message, yet today people willingly post the details of their private lives in very public and permanent online displays with little regard for their audience or their message.

Last year, for example, two rogue Domino’s employees drew national attention when they posted a video of themselves doing “distasteful” things to sandwiches being prepared for delivery. When the video went viral on YouTube, the two found themselves out of work and facing felony charges, but not before they seriously tainted Domino’s brand.

Codes of Conduct

As a result, more employers police employees’ online activity. It’s no surprise that companies peek at the online presence of potential job candidates, but surveys suggest that now as many as two-thirds also monitor their employees’ online activity at work.

And it probably won’t stop there. With case-after-publicized-case of employers being embarrassed, disparaged, or even legally liable because of the online actions of their employees, companies are quite likely to start following their employees’ personal social networking as well.

According to a recent Deloitte survey, 60 percent of managers believe that businesses have a right to know how their employees portray themselves or their companies on sites like Facebook and MySpace. And while the practice may still be somewhat controversial, there are a variety of new services that will automatically and affordably monitor social networking sites to follow what employees are saying about their employers.

Some social media experts, however, espouse the fundamental philosophy that a better defense is a good offense. Katie Laird with Schipul – The Web Marketing Company, advises employers to clearly communicate with their workers about acceptable online activities. Proper training and reasonable online codes of conduct can help employees follow appropriate social network etiquette to create positive corporate, and personal, brand impressions.

Where social media is concerned, questions are bound to persist and employers will never be able to control their employees entirely. But that’s not all bad. When employees post positive and flattering comments about their employers, and they do, they become the company’s most credible and genuine ambassadors online, just as they are offline.

Are you an avid social networker? Be sure to connect with G&A Partners on our HR Blog, via Twitter and on our Facebook fanpage!

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