Let’s face it: social media is risky. A single unfortunate post can throw a career off track. And yet in an era in which younger workers are connected with an average of 16 co-workers online and where 40% to 60% of hiring managers use social media to screen potential hires, it is simply not reasonable to stay off social media entirely. So how can we balance the personal and professional online?
In a recent research study, we spoke with dozens of professionals about their use of social media, and were struck by the variety of approaches they are using.
Some professionals, we found, still manage to avoid social media altogether. But most see that as unrealistic in many occupations, and are unwilling to be deprived of the advantages social media affords in terms of connecting to people and collecting information. Many in some way recreate in social media the kinds of boundaries, or mental fences, they use in real life to organize their worlds. These boundaries serve people well offline, and they can perform their function online, too.
Before making any conscious choice of preferred social media strategy, professionals should do a quick self-diagnosis of their current, most natural online behavior. Do they value transparency and authenticity first and foremost? If they do, and thus post whatever comes to mind on social media, they embrace what we call an Open strategy.