Employees might be under the impression that what they do in their personal online lives has no bearing on their professional existence. While that may be true in an ideal world, the truth is anything posted on the Internet can come back to bite staff members, and is probably less private than they think. Employee training programs should emphasize this point, to ensure that what workers choose to share online does not project an unflattering image to their peers, employers, partners, or clientele.
Is it Secret?
A 2013 study conducted as part of the Pew Internet & American Life Project revealed that approximately 37 percent of people who use the Web believe that they can browse and interact online anonymously. While this is untrue, an even greater number of people operate under the misconception that deleting posts and searches online prevents them from ever being found. According to Senior Planet, even the best efforts to wipe information and opinions provided online can often be traced.
Why does this matter? Although freedom of speech is certainly permitted, that does not limit the misconceptions that others may form after reading public posts or even private ones that are accessible to peers, employers, clients, or the general public. During staff training and development, encourage workers to keep in mind how they would feel if each of these groups saw the content of their posts before clicking submit.
Similarly, it may be useful to offer various examples of posts that could be taken as offensive or otherwise unprofessional. This may include pictures as well as comments and statuses. Discuss as a group how the items make people feel, and what impression it might give them of the person who posted them.
While information cannot be entirely safeguarded from the public, visibility can be limited to a certain degree. In addition to monitoring what they post, users of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can implement privacy controls. For instance, people can change what results appear when someone searches their name, and what information is accessible to the general public as compared to certified “friends” or other connections. Many sites allow control over individual posts or albums as well, so if employees feel the need to share those vacation pictures, they can limit their visibility. Remind workers, however, that even the most thorough security measures can usually be circumvented—a fact they would do well to consider before posting.