Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Social networking – business, pleasure or both?!

Social networking has exploded onto the scene in recent years and I believe its arrival has changed the way in which people communicate forever. I was born straight into the technological era and had my first mobile phone at the age of 8 – although I had no idea what to do with it and can’t remember using it....

Mobile phones with their ability to text, access the internet and emails have made social networking a way of life. I think nothing of messaging a friend on Facebook and if I don’t receive an email notifying me that someone has commented on my status or written on my wall all day I’m slightly offended.

Luckily I am of the generation that I can take full advantage of these technological advancements. Facebook has always been there, Twitter and LinkedIn, all of these sites have me as a member and I use each of them actively for what I deem to be their role.

It wasn’t until I took my first step into the grown up working world I realised that it might not be a good idea to add everyone I know onto Facebook. Would my new boss really want to see what I was doing outside of work? I have to admit, I’m not much of a rebel and only tend to go out once or twice a week but is it appropriate for them to know who my friends are, where I am and what I’m planning on doing?

There are many dangers associated with having colleagues and bosses on Facebook: There have been a number of stories in the news about employees being taken to court because of writing derogatory status’s about their work and in some cases their fellow employees. There are unwritten ‘rules’ regarding using peoples pictures for business reasons – they are a minefield and depend completely on the person in question. There also seems to be no set regulations on using information that they might publish. For example if you are friends with a colleague who is under performing and you see their status updates about relationship problems should you alter the way you deal with the situation?

With one fifth of employees spending more than 45 hours a week at work their choice of who they spend their time with is limited. The likelihood is that they see their workmates more often than their friends.

This in fact begs the question: Are the lines between individuals work lives and private lives becoming blurred? And do they now overlap?

The emergence of LinkedIn.com seemed to fill this niche. When asked what it is I reply: ‘It’s just like Facebook but for my work people’. A very technical explanation but accurate.

Working in PR I know that building relationships is the basis of my career. LinkedIn provides me with a platform to do this, however it keeps it professional as there is very little personal information about me there apart from my previous work, one profile picture and status updates are more likely to be interesting links rather than how I am feeling.

Let’s call it clear cut: Facebook for friends and LinkedIn for business colleagues. What happens if your boss requests your friendship on Facebook to tag you in pictures of the Christmas party or invites you to join the company group. You can’t exactly reject. Or can you? It all depends on the type of business that you work for, each individual has to decide how much information they allow to be online and who they want to access it.

In conclusion social networking can be used for both professional and personal reasons. However there are different sites for different applications and care should be taken to make sure that the two don’t overlap.... not too much anyway.

Do you use social networking differently? Are you friend with all your colleagues on Facebook? How do you decide? Would love to hear what other people do so feel free to comment.


  1. "There are unwritten ‘rules’ regarding using peoples pictures for business reasons – they are a minefield and depend completely on the person in question". I disagree here - they don't depend on the person in question - using someone's picture off their facebook page or twitter is likely to put you on very grey ground legally.

    Terrific post.

    I remember saving up for my first mobile phone - it was £30 plus 30 ringpulls from coke cans. It was a proper old analogue phone... a brick!

    I'm very anal about who I allow where - my facebook is just people I know and like (and I generally don't like people). Whenever I hit 200 friends, I usually start pruning.

  2. Hi David,

    Thank you for your commment. I think it should be taught within University or mentioned more frequently about the usage of pictures. Like we have discussed before it is something that we are not taught and like you say it can get you into trouble.

    After reading your guest post on my blog I think you have the right outlook on your usage of social networking. I am due for a clear out on Facebook too :-)

    I do believe my first phone was a BT cellnet....I didn't even know how to work it! The text messages scrolled across the screen like pager....