Accountants are more prevalent in the social mediasphere than you might think; they’ve taken over Twitter, blog regularly and can even be found figuring out how to make Foursquare relevant to business. But since tapping the potential of social media for business is relatively new, not all organizations know exactly how to use the tools, nor do the understand the importance of a good social media policy within their organization. So here are some tips for making the most out of social media without losing your job. We’re sorry we have to even share these but we’ve seen some of you guys out there in the social mediasphere and it appears you need a reminder.
Choose Your 140 Characters Carefully – If you’re on Twitter and are complaining about your job, understand that the entire world can see you. Even if your stream is private, the great Google sees everything. A few months back, Twitter’s internal search allowed private tweets to appear in searches. I’m not sure if this little hole has been patched but if it hasn’t, you don’t want to be a victim of your own public stream of consciousness. Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say in an e-mail to your boss.
Ask About Your Firm’s Social Media Policy – Though it’s sort of implied in the firm’s overall policy on communications outside of the company, social media is an entirely different avenue and the rules may not be as cut and dry as the GAAP you’re used to. Not all companies will specifically bar you from blogging on your free time and many turn a blind eye to the activity… until you say something they don’t like. Don’t assume that you’re safe if you don’t share your name or location: it’s fairly easy to reveal your identity if you’re sharing details of your life like where you live and what you do. It gets easier if you’re using a blog to rant about work or out obnoxious coworkers. This applies to positive blogs as well; even if you’re doing the industry a service by discussing current events in accounting, some firms would rather you not say anything at all. Be careful with your details and when in doubt, ask about your firm’s social media policy.
Facebook Friends – You’re not friends with him in real life so don’t be friends with your boss on Facebook. Facebook can be a great networking tool if you aren’t sharing photos of your drunken weekend adventures but if you are, better leave your boss or even coworkers off your friends list. Remember also that Facebook privacy settings can be complicated to say the least; even if you have most of your profile set to private, if you haven’t gone in and changed certain settings, mobile uploads and other photo albums can still appear in search results. That means any nosy coworker out to make you look bad could easily stumble upon your page and access things you’ve posted thinking they are invisible to anyone but your friends. I’m all for being cozy with colleagues but be careful when adding people you work with if you, like 99% of us, use your Facebook to rant, brag and occasionally spout off inappropriate things.
Careful when commenting on blogs! – Listen, we love you guys for contributing but sometimes we have to wonder if you’re playing with a full deck. If you’re commenting from and about work, keep the details to a minimum and use the anonymity of the Internet to your advantage! I have Jr Deputy Accountant readers who work for the banks, the Fed or government agencies but that secret stays between them and me – some choose to create a nickname that wouldn’t reveal who they really are and others stick with “anonymous”. However you do it, remember that if your name is George Stein and you work at KPMG, using GSKPMG2010 isn’t fooling anyone. Talking about salaries or griping about the conditions are totally allowed – if not encouraged – but be smart about it and never use your real name unless you work in communications or don’t mind your boss or colleagues seeing your comments. Once again, remember the great Google sees ALL.
Whatever you do, never forget the Internet is forever – You can delete your Myspace account but since the Internet tends to aggregate information, just because you’ve deleted something doesn’t mean it is gone forever. Case in point: when I write a blog post on JDA, it’s picked up and republished by two news aggregators instantly, which means I’m stuck with whatever typo I missed or stupid comment I made, even if I change or delete it on my own site. It is the same with Twitter as many bizarre websites aggregate tweets about a particular subject, some permanently. So you might be able to zap an obvious faux pas the morning after but it could come back to haunt you if it ends up somewhere else.