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You might care about this article if you:
- Use social media
- Are charged with writing a social media policy
- Build personal brands
- Are new to social media
I was reminded of this question when I noticed that Facebook now proactively offers me to befriend coworkers. When I go to my own profile page on mobile and click on my current employer’s name, it offers me to connect to coworkers I’m not connected to. Here’s how that looks:
And then when I click on my employer’s name I get a screen that offers a carousel view of other employees:
Each person listed also shows common interests and common connections.
So Facebook wants us to connect with coworkers but how do we decide whether or not we actually want to do that? Of course the theories and opinions are all over the place on this topic like many other things on social media. Ultimately, it comes down to your personal preference.
If you don’t want to be connected to your boss don’t connect with your boss or accept their request to connect. Your call! No need to ask for permission.
If you don’t want to be connected to anybody at the office maybe consider not listing your place of employment on your profile.
And of course it also depends on each network.
On Facebook for example relationships are typically reciprocatory. One person sends a request the other person accepts or ignores. We both agree we now follow each other. Fair warning: if somebody sends you a request and you ignore it they now actually are following you and can still see your public posts. That really only applies if you post things publicly. A lot of people post things that only their friends can see. Check your privacy settings.
Most of my own Facebook posts are public so people can just follow me without us being friends officially anyway. But most people don’t use Facebook this way and they only are connected through the mutual relationship.
LinkedIn is similar to Facebook in that regard.
Follows on Instagram and Twitter don’t need to be mutual and unless your account is set to private you don’t even have to accept or decline somebody’s connection request.
But Instagram is closer to Facebook in how many people use it. For example, at a workshop I was conducting a person asked me how they could disconnect from their boss on Instagram.
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Because me disconnecting from them wouldn’t actually get them to unfollow me. Which is slightly different from how it would work on Facebook. So we brainstormed for a couple seconds and I suggested that the only way to do it at that point is to actually block them.
Now on Instagram they won’t get a notification that they were blocked but they can tell if they check your account that they can no longer follow you.
On LinkedIn on the other hand when you go to somebody’s profile and unfollow them chances are they just got a notification that you just checked out their profile.
Personally I’ve changed my opinion on who to connect with over the years and at times it’s been inconsistent. Generally speaking, I am pretty open to connecting with many people, but for most of us out there in social media and there are things to consider. Here is the start of a checklist for you:
- Consider what you use social media for. Is it even appropriate for professional connections?
- If it’s not appropriate for professional connections think about how your content might impact your professional work or even future work.
- Consider how professional connections might use social networks themselves. For example you may not be interested all that much in your coworkers children photos or photos from their hobbies or whatever.
Ultimately it’s a personal decision and it all comes down to how people use different networks and also what content they actually want to see.
And not all cultures are necessarily perfect and maybe some people don’t want to see updates from coworkers outside of working hours.
So all those things need to be considered on a personal level. However, being connected with coworkers can also help relationships and strengthen of them. Because you know your coworkers better. You see some of the things they post, you hear some of their stories and those stories and the knowledge of them can actually make relationships stronger. Assuming that the same stories wouldn’t be shared during the workday you can actually connect on a deeper level just by knowing those additional details about each other.
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Keep in mind that not all relationships are necessarily equal. A senior executive once told me that he doesn’t invite employees to become part of his Facebook community but that he accepts all requests.
The thinking was that if the boss asks to connect it could be seen as pushy or bossy but the other way around could be seen as being open to connecting.
And then of course we have the companies who literally say in their social media policies that they discourage connecting outside of work, for example on Facebook. That could be a red culture flag ⛳️ .
For some jobs it may indeed be leaning toward the inappropriate to connect with clients or people that we provide services to. Healthcare comes to mind or elementary school teaching or something else along those lines.
For some jobs it may indeed be highly effective to connect with everybody and anybody. Marketing, sales and other similar roles come to mind.
As an executive content marketing strategist I have found that casual social media connections-no matter the network-actually have helped with business success.
Now that may not work in every profession but in some it does. And for the most part I do treat all of my social channels as a mix of professional and personal. If I wouldn’t want to professional connections to see something I likely just wouldn’t post it. That doesn’t mean all of my social media images are super polished and always totally dressed up but it means that I am aware that professional and personal connections will see them.
Ultimately, you have to use your professional and personal experience and judgment to make the right decision.
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