People using social media in the workplace.
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By Jack Kosakowski
April 30, 2018
MOTTO
Jack Kosakowski is CEO and Chief Builder of the US divisions of Creation Agency and Skillslab.

It’s a challenge faced by just about everyone who works these days: How much can you say on social media about your own thoughts and interests without endangering your job?

Bosses don’t want their employees to post things that could reflect poorly on the company, turn off customers or damage other business relationships. But social media tools are becoming crucial means of self-expression and activism. The president himself uses social media to further his agenda.

It’s not just politics and activism on social media either. More Americans are launching side businesses. Some are selling items they make or taking on project work in their areas of expertise. For them, the benefits of building a social media brand sometimes outweigh the risks of upsetting superiors at their day jobs.

I work full time in social selling, helping clients in various industries make optimal use of social media to move products and services. Over time, I’ve learned a handful of basic rules that will allow you to stay true to yourself online while minimizing the risks to your professional reputation.

Automate

This is the easiest step, but the one most people forget. Often, a boss’s primary concern is about time spent on social media, because it can lead to productivity loss. In fact, 51% of workers say their businesses have rules about social media during work hours, but only 32% have rules over “how employees may present themselves on the Internet in general,” according to the Pew Research Center.

These rules aren’t making people shy away from social media, however, 77% of U.S. workers use social media regardless of workplace rules, Pew found.

If you write and schedule posts on your own time, you can limit how much time you spend creating crafty Instagram captions and tweets during work hours, and still seem present to your friends and followers.

Multiple Accounts

Many companies want their employees to use social media to engage in ways that can help the brand — by sharing relevant content and reasons you like working there. Doing this can be great for business. But you dilute the value of these efforts if you mix these kinds of posts with updates about another business you may have, or with controversial takes on issues that don’t relate to your company.

In these instances, I recommend having two Twitter accounts. In the profile for your second account, you can say, “Over here I’m discussing personal thoughts and the latest on my new clothing line,” etc.

Privacy Settings

I’m still surprised at how often people don’t think to change their Facebook settings for each post.

Want to share something personal, jump in on a political conversation or encourage activism? Might it upset your company? Click to share it only with friends. (And don’t friend your boss if their thoughts don’t align with yours.) Want to say something that you think in no way conflicts with your company’s social media rules? Make that post public.

You can also create a Facebook page for your side business, publishing only relevant content there.

Yes, anything you say on any platform — unless you try to go anonymous — could get back to your boss. But the more you draw these lines, the more you’re showing people at work that
you’re committed to following your company’s guidelines on social media.

The 2-Hour Rule

If I find myself wanting to post something, on any platform, that feels emotionally charged, I wait two hours. During that time, I calm down and think through how the post might affect business relationships.

Nine out of 10 times, I decide not to post.

Don’t Give Up Your Side Hustle

These steps work if you’re happy with your current job. But what if you’re not? What if the things you want to post about might lead to your own startup, a book deal or a role at an
organization that’s doing things you’re passionate about?

If that’s the case, your business may be holding you back. You owe it to yourself to pursue your own dreams. More than 40% of the American workforce may be freelancers by 2020, according to a 2010 study by Intuit.

Technology has made this a time of great opportunity to launch your own business. This isn’t the time to be stifled by corporate rules if you’re just not that passionate about your job. So if it comes down to a choice between keeping your job or being true to yourself and your interests, always choose the latter.

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