(This article originally appeared on observer.com.)
By Kris Ruby
You walked into work this morning and headed to your cubicle as usual, but you couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. When you went to get your coffee in the break room, several of your co-workers looked at you and whispered. When you passed your boss in the hall, she made an excuse not to talk to you. You can’t help but wonder: Was it that political post you made on Facebook last night? Was it your weekend party photo on Instagram? Was it that late night drunken tweet? Most important, is it going to cost you your job?
Workplace etiquette has always been a nebulous, confusing social territory even before the days of social media. Professional boundaries and personal boundaries of behavior are very different. Social media further blurs the line between the two, making it harder than ever to know the appropriate social cues and responses.
If you worry that you’re making gaffes with social media that could cost you your job, you could be right. Here are 10 workplace etiquette social media blunders to avoid:
1. Posting photos during business hours. There is nothing wrong with posting endless photos of your baby or your dog in private, but steer clear of posting all of this during business hours. After you have posted the 500th photo of your baby, your employer may begin to question what your top priority is. Of course, not every post should be about work; balance is essential.
2. Friending co-workers you don’t know. If you know your colleagues well and you chat a lot at the office, it might make sense to add them on social media. But if you don’t have a close relationship with a colleague, adding them on Facebook or Snapchat might just be awkward. After all, you avoid talking in the break room, so why would you want to connect online? The basic rule is this: online boundaries should be a reflection of offline boundaries. If you try to cross one of those lines on the web, it could potentially lead to an uncomfortable situation.
3. Not understanding how each social media network works. LinkedIn is the best social media platform for connecting with colleagues and staying in touch. However, it should not be used the same way Facebook or Twitter is used. Your LinkedIn connections want to see work anniversaries, business blogs and press mentions. They don’t want to see party photos or personal content. If you’re going to be on the social media sites, follow the rules for what is socially (and professionally) acceptable to post on each one.
4. Being overly personal on social media. This is perhaps the biggest workplace blunder I hear people complain about behind co-workers backs. The people who work with you do not want to hear an endless saga from you about your failed marriage or your financial woes. It makes them see you in a different light. Eventually, they will unfollow you on Facebook because it’s nicer than unfriending you altogether. Therapists are for venting, not Facebook.
5. Not being discreet about your Facebook groups. Joining groups on Facebook is one of the primary reasons people like to use it. However, most people don’t realize that your groups can often be visible to your Facebook friends. If you don’t want your co-workers to see that you’re part of the Overeaters Anonymous Facebook group, you may want to consider joining other groups. Even if you’re able to successfully hide your groups, when someone goes to join a group, it will still tell them which of their friends are in that group. Additionally, anyone in the group can screenshot your private posts in the group, which can leak out beyond social media.
6. Misusing live stories. This pertains to Facebook Live, Snapchat, and Instagram Live. All are these are great if you want to embrace live sharing. However, if you start watching a previous co-workers Instagram Live story, remember that they can see who is watching them. At some point, it begins to look stalker-ish if you watch peoples stories that you had a bad relationship with. The same is true for any of the live sharing social media sites. When you look at an Instagram photo, no one can tell unless you like it. When you look at an Instagram story, the poster knows who is watching.
7. Breaking dinner table rules. Just like your mother said, you should never discuss politics, sex, or religion at the dinner table. These rules apply to the office, and, if your boss or co-workers can see your posts, that means they also apply on social media. We don’t always think about what we are doing when we comment on someone else’s political post online. But if those posts are in public, you could end up regretting it the next day when someone screenshots it and uses it against you. In today’s divisive political climate, the wrong political remark could cost you your job.
8. Not filtering your posts. On Facebook, you can filter your posts, and on Google Plus, you can add people to different Circles. These systems allow you to only share content with certain people in your life. Filters allow you to share things with family or friends that you aren’t comfortable sharing with your co-workers. If you aren’t using filters, groups, and circles, you are publicly posting everything.
9. Sharing without reading. How often do you re-share a video or an article without actually watching or reading the entire thing? Our online profiles are curated reflections of our personalities. But while we are busy skimming content and re-sharing what we think reflects our views, we can sometimes miss key details. For example, you might share an article because you like the headline—but later you find out the headline is misleading and the content does not represent your feelings at all. Always read or watch content in full before you share it so that you are clear on what you are endorsing.
10. Not checking up on what your friends and family are posting. Finally, you aren’t the only one who can destroy your professional reputation; friends and family can too if they are indiscreet with their tagging. Adjust your settings so that people need to ask your permission before they tag you. Your boss may have very different political views than your mom does, so keep them separate to be safe.
Social media should tell a story about you that you would be comfortable sharing with your boss. Regularly post updates that help to cultivate a story of professional dedication and success, and avoid sharing content that tells a story you don’t want bosses, co-workers or headhunters to hear.
Kris Ruby is the CEO of Ruby Media Group, a Public Relations and social media agency. Ruby is a frequent commentator on TV and speaks ab0ut social media, tech trends and crisis communications.