Like many, I have separate personal and professional social media accounts. But it will have not escaped your notice that many people don’t and use single accounts for everything and therefore confuse the two. They post personal and professional content on the same platforms. This needs careful attention. Here’s why.
In terms of content, I try extremely hard to only post professional content on professional social media accounts, and only post personal contact on personal ones. This can be really difficult, but it is a principle I would urge everyone to adopt. And of course, we should ensure content is respectful and helpful and balanced.
We should all think twice before posting. If in doubt, ask a friend if your proposed content passes these tests. The delete button comes in very useful. I delete, edit or clean up outdated or possibly sensitive content regularly. Remember things move on quickly, and so should we. And if you are not sure, as someone else to take a look. And be prepared to listen and take action as a result.
This is an issue about identity. One’s personal and professional identities can become integrated, but discrete boundaries are helpful not only for ourselves but for those with whom we work. One tip is to use a professional or other name for professional or work-related accounts. And to use an appropriate name for personal accounts, this could be a different name. Something especially important for roles such as therapists, like myself, who do not consider it useful for clients to discover personal information about their counsellor. Easier said than done, and a determined client will seek out information to satisfy their craving for more.
Technical skills come into play here. How many of us are fully confident about the functionality of the social media we use? What do you know about the privacy settings, for example? A common finding of mine is people may think their personal social media is private or limited, but then are surprised to find out who can access it, or how extended networks reach people far more extensively than they would have imagined.
Then there is the matter of tone or interpretation. Often we can say one thing and it is received as another. A few questions can help avoid common errors. Things like: Would I comfortably say this to a client or colleague? Could what I am writing be interpreted differently from my intent? Remove as much doubt as possible. If you cannot, then do you really need to post it anyway?
It’s important to keep up to date with legislation, ethical guidelines and information on social media. Including any organisational or association’s policies that you should be adhering to. Failure to do so could have big implications for your job. If such policies don’t exist, set your own informal or formal parameters. There is help out there, model policies, mentoring and training – take a look and use it before it is too late.