There's no denying that social media has changed our personal and professional lives in a multitude of ways. Ten years ago, LinkedIn was just starting out and Mark Zuckerberg and crew were still dreaming up Facebook in their dorm room. Nowadays, many of us can't imagine a day without updating our status or sharing something on these omnipresent social networks.

The question is, in the workplace do you blur the lines and friend your employees on Facebook? Do you endorse and recommend them on LinkedIn?

You've Got a Friend

In my experience, I've found that employees either friend everyone on day one, including the boss, or they cultivate a small circle of those they want to let in. I'll pretty much accept a request from anyone on my team as I welcome it. But not everyone agrees or wants to be "friends" with the boss, and I understand that, too. My content marketing director, Kim, laughs that during her first week on the job she got a friend request from her CEO (me) and her rabbi. Thankfully, her Facebook Timeline is pretty tame.

But, there are lots of stories of social media gone wrong where someone's posted a little too much information and ends up getting the boot. While you can't really control what your employees want to share when it comes to their personal lives, you can set rules on what they can divulge when it's about their jobs or your company. So, make sure you've got a social media policy in place and be consistent with it. At my online marketing company, VerticalResponse, our social media policy is in our employee handbook that's given out to every new employee on his or her first day.

And if you're going to friend your employees on social media, set a good example by not over-sharing details of your life that might make them uncomfortable in the workplace.

Connect. Endorse. Recommend.

LinkedIn has always been seen as a place for people looking to hire or be hired, but it's been growing and changing so much lately that the network's become much more a part of our day-to-day.

With the introduction of endorsements, there's now a reason for you to keep coming back to the site to endorse others and see who has endorsed you. An endorsement is like a light recommendation, similar to a "like" on Facebook. You're giving the person a nod and saying, "Yep, they can do this." But, you're not going so far as to recommend them.

I find that my employees nearly always send me a LinkedIn request to connect. Though oddly, some never do and then send one right before they decide to leave the company. That one always baffles me. And apparently other team members agree. If someone sends them a LinkedIn request after years of working together, it's usually a sign.

Equally as baffling, and completely awkward, is when a former employee/co-worker sends you a LinkedIn request asking you to recommend them when you either 1) don't know them well enough, or 2) don't feel comfortable doing so. In this situation, you might want to pass on the opportunity unless you directly managed them and can provide concrete, specific examples of their capabilities. And you've got to be consistent here, lest you come across as playing favorites.

How do you navigate the social media waters with your employees? Do you jump in or dog paddle to the safety of a social media-free zone? Share in the comments, I'd love to hear.

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Published on: Jun 24, 2013