The following blog is by Dania Miwa
For many of us, social media can seem like a great space to vent and be totally candid about our everyday dealings. That’s why for me it’s always a struggle to give advice on when (and how) to set boundaries. How do you manage your public soapbox when the chair of your board is also a Facebook friend? Can you be yourself if your boss follows you on Twitter? Really, it all depends on your comfort level, work culture, and capacity at your organization. Nevertheless, I am of the firm belief that you can be friends with professional colleagues on your social networks (i.e. Facebook, Twitter)—as long as you set boundaries.
Why are we engrossed in what seems to be a battle of dual personalities: Work vs. Personal? Because of the increasing popularity of Facebook. It’s made even your 75-year-old staffed accountant—who handles account receivables in Lotus 1-2-3—enticed. And because Facebook tends to be more personal in nature than other social networking sites, the lines between personal and professional are easily blurred. Now, you can mark your boss’ friend request as the moment you began weaning-off Facebook or you can use this as an opportunity to add more depth to your network and professional relationships.
My solution? I find that taking the time to create appropriate boundaries is what allows me to effectively grow my network. Instead of completely denying requests from professional networks, I maintain different list with various privacy settings. With these measures in place, I’ve been able to use Facebook to help engage my colleagues and boss in my fundraising efforts online while expanding the reach of my organization.
Another caveat? I believe that connecting with folks from your professional networks on Facebook can make them more accessible and approachable on and offline. You receive a holistic picture of what makes your colleagues, bosses, mentors, and industry leaders unique. Their values. Their hobbies and interest. Their likes and dislikes. Managing these relationships can be tricky, but a delicate balance can be reached.
Now, I’ve made my share of mistakes, most of which I won’t publicly admit to, but all made for great opportunities to learn. My best advice on managing online relationships? Do what feels right to you. If it is outside your comfort level, then simply don’t do it.
If you’re still uncomfortable about connecting with colleagues on Facebook, then draw very clear lines and instead connect with those individuals on LinkedIn. It’s perfectly acceptable to respond to requests on Facebook with a polite note—and link to your LinkedIn account—stating that you prefer to connect with other like-minded professionals on LinkedIn.
And whether you’re adding friends and family or colleagues and professional contacts, remember once your information goes virtual it can be virtually accessible to anyone who looks hard enough.
What are your thoughts on adding colleagues and professional contacts on Facebook (or any other social networking site)? How do you handle such request?