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Personal and Professional Use of Social Media

I used to think that social media meant online friend groups and photo sharing, but with more exposure to social media platforms, I have been exposed more to what social media really is. Social media is an instrument of communication that can be used to keep in contact with friends, form workplace relationships or provide information. It doesn’t just give you information, but allows you to interact and participate in the situation, through question and response, comments or making suggestions based on other users similar interests.

I maintain a facebook, twitter and blog accounts for personal use, where I am able to talk with friends and share photos from holidays and generally keep in touch with people who would otherwise fade out of my life. These social media resources also make it possible to communicate with colleagues and discover new information. Professionally I use team management websites to help with the logistics of teams that I coach, and maintain professional relationships with people on LinkedIn. By having accounts of my own on all of these social media sites, I am also able to keep up to date with what other people are using social media for. I read blog posts, articles and forums that I would otherwise never have known about.

Web 2.0 is the move toward a more social, collaborative, interactive and responsive internet (Nations, D.). It is the second stage of development of the Internet and a change in the philosophy of internet use. Web 2.0 is typically characterized through dynamic or user-generated content and the growth of social networking rather than the static web pages of old.

Using Web 2.0 makes it possible for every person and business to develop their online identity to great benefit.

 

Risks of Social Media

The honeycomb method is used to separate social media use into seven functional blocks; Identity, Presence, Relationships, Reputation, Groups, Conversations and Sharing. These functional blocks can help examine user experience and their implications (Kietzmann et. al.). Each of these segments have their own set of implications and require different strategies to maintain and manage them. All of the different functional blocks have their own associated risks.

A single person may have accounts with a number of different social media networks, and may also have multiple accounts with a single service. Typically there are three categories of use for social media services; Personal, Professional and Official. A personal profile is used for non-work related information sharing, typically with friends. A professional profile is where a person can make comments in a personal capacity, but is able to reflect using their professional expertise. Finally, an official account is used by an individual or group when they are commenting in their capacity as an employee of an organisation (Waugh, P. & Barger, A).

Social media is changing the way to work and communicate, offering a new way to engage with customers, colleagues, and the world at large (intel). Social media is fast becoming one of the busiest and most commonly used technology in the world. Almost 60% of people worldwide have some kind of online profile, and as much 98% of 18-24 year olds are engaged with social media (statisticbrain.com). With so many people engaged with social media it is almost impossible to prevent problems from arising with someone when you post onto public forums.

Maintaining anonymity is not an option on the internet. The best you can hope for is controlling what information is available about you to the public. There are any number of risks that every person has to be willing to accept, some of the most significant for personal profiles include:

Improper use of personal information

Posting inappropriate images or messages onto public forums

Breach in intellectual property

Change in services resulting in unexpected bills

Being aware of the risks, and having a plan to mitigate any problems that might arise can help maintain a positive public image and reduce the risk of damage to your reputation.

 

Social Media Code of Conduct

Personal and professional profiles on social media each require management in different areas. They target different audiences and therefore may need different information and censoring.

Professional profiles are aimed more towards colleagues and work related associates. This means that your reputation is on the line with every comment you make. Everything you put onto your profile is going to impact what people think of you professionally. These opinions can also be affected by personal profiles.

While there are some areas that will be different in personal profiles compared with professional profiles, it is prudent to maintain both with the highest standards and have a simple code of conduct that is relevant to both as there is almost always going to be overlap.

Most businesses will have policies on social media and best practice guidelines. Everyone will have a different opinion on what you should and shouldn’t do, but at the end of the day it is the responsibility of the individual to control what their public image is and what they put onto social media.

For both personal and professional profiles:

Knowledge – Know the media you are using, and your audience

Responsibility – Be responsible for everything you post; think before you click. If you don’t want it there don’t post it. If you don’t want it there, remove it, don’t leave it for later.

Honesty – Be honest with your opinions, and be willing to justify them later

Security – Only use credible social media platforms and regularly update privacy settings, keeping up to date with changes in service policies of the sites you are using.

For personal profiles it is important to:

Protection – Only make connections with people that you are willing to have see your personal information and private activities.

For professional profiles it is important to:

ModerationLimit personal information shared only to what is necessary for public viewing. Only share the information about your organisation that is safe to share with everyone.

Professionalism – Keep personal issues and private activities completely out of your professional profile.

In all cases, knowledge is key. If you know who can see it, and what at the ramifications of your comments are, then you are in a better position to decide if it is appropriate to post.

References

Bennett, W. L., 2008, Changing Citizenship in the Digital Age. Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth. The MIT Press. 1–24

Kietzmann, J.H., Hermkens, K., McCarthy I.P. & Silvestre, B.S., 2011, Social media? Get serious! Understanding the functional building blocks of social media. Business Horizons, 54, 241-251

Waugh, P. & Barger, A., 2012, Using Social Media in the Public Service: A Short Guide for Public Servants, Office of the Australian Government CTO, Technology and Procurement Division, Department of Finance and Deregulation.

 

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