My latest for the Wall Street Journal addresses the challenges that companies face in managing “co-branded” employees: employees who have built a significant reputation and following through social media. The story covers a range of issues managers need to consider, from the implications for promotion paths to the ownership of employee-created intellectual property.
But what if you’re the employee, rather than the manager? From all the advice online, you’d think that the only question around building your “personal brand” is how to grow it as big as possible, as fast as possible.
A significant online reputation is not all good news, however. For the employee, just as much as the employer, it can pose real challenges. If your social media efforts are expanding your professional reputation, here are the implications you need to consider in your day job:
- What’s bloggable? If you see blog or tweet fodder in every snippet of insight or intel that falls from your colleagues’ lips, you may inhibit the trust and openness that are necessary to effective working relations. Treat your workplace conversations as off-the-record, and if a colleague says something you’d love to share in some form, ask for their permission and their preference for anonymity or attribution.
- When are you posting? You may be a clever HootSuite or Buffer user, and use each evening to queue up the next day’s tweets and Facebook posts. But the odds are good that many of your colleagues and clients won’t know that posts can be set up in advance, so if you’re posting all through the workday, you may be perceived as someone who’s posting instead of working. (Or worse yet, mistaken for someone who has tweeted all the way through your meetings.) Find ways to let your colleagues know that your 24/7 news cycle is the product of careful planning, and consider suspending even your pre-loaded tweets if you’re going to be at a meeting where you want people to know they have your full attention.
- What’s in a name? If you use Twitter to build your professional profile, choose a username that is linked to you alone, and not your company. Your employer is less likely to expect to “own” your Twitter following if you are tweeting as @YourName rather than @YourNameCompanyName.
- Who owns your blog? Depending on your employment contract, your employer may legally own any work you create while in their employment. Review your contract, and if you have concerns over the ownership of your after-hours blogging, consider raising the issue with your manager or HR department.
- What’s in it for them? Most people who succeed in building a professional reputation through social media succeed because they love their online lives. If you want the leeway to pursue your after-hours social media activities — and maybe build some of that work into your day job — your employer and team need to know what’s in it for them. So make a point of telling your company’s stories, linking back to your organization’s web site, and singing the (sincere) praises of your colleagues and clients. The more they see your social media presence as an asset to the work you are doing together, the less they will curtail it, and the more they will cheer you on.