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Watch Your Words on Social Networking Sites

    Satheesh PM

    Are you an active blogger or user of social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, orkut, hi5, zorpia, or Anushakti Nagar Networks?

    In India, some companies are growingly increasingly concerned about privacy and other breaches by employees on sites like these. Lack of awareness by employees can lead to “unacceptable behavior,” says Rajan Kohli, chief marketing officer of Wipro Technologies, which issued an internal social media policy earlier this year.

    Don’t fret if your employer doesn’t have a similar policy in place yet. Here are some “Dos” and “Don’ts” that will keep you from getting into trouble with your company.

    1. Identify Yourself

    Many companies ask employees to disclose their relationship to their employer on social networking sites, especially if they are planning to discuss anything related to work or their industry, says Gaurav Mishra, digital and social media leader for public relations firm MSL Group in Asia.

    Even if you don’t mention your company name in your online profiles, nowadays it’s easy enough to match executives to their firms through professional web sites like

    2. Follow the Face-to-Face Rule

    Don’t write anything online that you wouldn’t say to somebody to their face. No complaining about your boss or company, or gossiping about colleagues. A colleague whom you might have “friended” on Facebook could read that and pass it along to other colleagues or to your boss, landing you in a soup.

    “Facebook is more public than most people think it is,” says Mr. Mishra.

    3. Don’t Share Sensitive Information

    Sharing confidential information about your clients, or about an upcoming product launch or about the internal workings of your company is a strict no-no.

    “The same ‘rules’ that apply to sharing information in the physical world apply online,” said Meenu Handa, director, corporate communications, Microsoft Corp. India Pvt. Ltd., in an e-mail message.

    4. Avoid Controversial Topics

    Politics and religion are two subjects that can cause passions to run high. In general, your employer would probably prefer it if you avoided these topics or were at least diplomatic when expounding on them online. “Be careful about any racial (or) religious comment,” says Elango R., chief human resources officer at outsourcing firm MphasiS, a unit of Hewlett-Packard’s Co.

    5. Don’t Count on Disclaimers

    Sometimes people write disclaimers on their profile that say the views they are expressing are personal or that by posting links they don’t intend to endorse those links. “People disregard that,” says Anup Jain, marketing director, Pizza Hut, part of Yum Restaurants India Pvt. Ltd.

    This is especially true if you hold an important post in the company. “People don’t draw a fine line between what you say and what position you occupy,” says Mr. Jain. “If you have a controversial point of view…they will find out about you in a few seconds.”

    6. Don’t ‘Friend’ Everyone

    “You’ve got to be careful about whom you accept in your friend circle,” says Mr. Elango.

    For instance, a “friend” or colleague who doesn’t respect your privacy may share your personal photos and information with the rest of your colleagues, or worse – your boss.

    Avoid “friending” people you don’t trust, or someone who has shaky credentials. Remember that other people often form an impression of you based on whom your friends are.

    “Sometimes you’ve got to be able to say no,” says Mr. Elango.

    7. Use the Privacy Settings

    If you haven’t already done so, change your privacy settings on the social media web sites you use. On Facebook, for instance, you can select who is able to see your personal information, your “Wall” posts, and your photos.

    “You may not want everybody to see how you party,” says Pizza Hut’s Mr. Jain.

    Even on Twitter, you can use a setting that allows you to choose your followers. In that case, your tweets can be read only by your chosen followers.

    8. Be Discreet on Fan Pages, Groups

    If you have signed up as a “fan” of your company or are active on any online groups, “you’ve got to be extra careful” about what you write there, says Mr. Jain. He suggests using these fan pages and groups to glean information about your company, and to absorb public feedback. You shouldn’t use them as a forum where you deride competition, says Mr. Jain.

    9. Be a Talking Head

    Senior company officials or those who speak to the press on behalf of the company even once in a while should consider looking at their social web pages a professional tool rather than just a personal account. That’s a good way to build your company’s brand, and your brand within the company.

    But be sure to check with your company’s top officials that they approve. Some companies, like Intel Corp., ask employees to go through training programs before taking on a role like that, according to Mr. Mishra of MSL Group.

    10. Remember It’s Forever

    Diamonds may or may not be forever, but what you write on the Internet is (or can feel that way). Something that you write online could come back to bite you many years later.

    For instance, maybe you blogged about how much you hate your former company, but some years later, that same company might interview you for a managerial post. Somebody could easily find your old blog and that could damage your chances.

    “You’ve got to remember that there’s no expiry date,” says Mr. Elango.

    Thanks to Yahoo News