As more people embrace Facebook and other social media websites for business purposes, the already fine line between what's professional and what's personal continues to blur. It can be difficult to determine which work-related contacts to connect with and what content to share. Here is some friendly advice:
Let your boss make the first move. According to a new Robert Half survey, nearly half of executives polled said they are uncomfortable getting Facebook friend requests from people they manage.
Regardless of how much rapport you have in the office, your supervisor simply might not want to connect with employees on personal networking sites. Avoid awkwardness by waiting for your boss to reach out to you first. And if you choose to accept the friend request, make sure you don't post anything you wouldn't want him or her to see!
Protect your privacy -- and your professional image. Familiarize yourself with Facebook's privacy settings. Remember: Unless you use this feature, every word or image you post can be seen by all of your Facebook friends. Do you really want coworkers and clients to view your vacation photos?
Adopt a better-safe-than-sorry approach by creating a separate "work" list and limiting the content you make accessible to those contacts. You can even go a step further and customize your settings to block specific individuals from viewing certain sections of your profile, such as photos of you and your friends.
Exercise good judgment. This common-sense message bears repeating: Don't be your own worst enemy. If you have a bad day, cool off before clicking. Badmouthing your boss, a colleague, or a hiring manager through Facebook is a highly risky move that's come back to haunt many professionals. Similarly, if you're currently employed (and you want to remain so), think twice before writing status updates about your search for a better job. In addition, avoid becoming a fan of potentially controversial people or products, or taking online quizzes (for which there are no privacy controls) that could be deemed unprofessional.
Consistently monitor your online reputation. Managing your so-called "digital footprint" requires more than merely monitoring what you post. Check your Facebook account regularly to keep tabs on the information others are broadcasting about you.
You'll want to act quickly if someone makes an inappropriate comment on your Facebook wall ("Kunle, are you still working for that your Stupid boss?") or identifies you in an embarrassing photo. You can easily delete comments posted on your wall and untag yourself from pictures by clicking "Remove Tag" under the image. You also might contact the person to express your displeasure and politely request that he or she keep your professional reputation in mind in the future.
While Facebook enables savvy professionals and job seekers to build key connections, there are also many pitfalls to sidestep. By taking the tips highlighted above, you can be sure that Facebook helps -- not hinders -- your career.