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By: Morgan Counts
With Adrian Bredeson

On Social Media sites such as Facebook, the distinction between personal and professional is often blurred. Facebook is traditionally an outlet for personal socialization, but it is increasingly used in the business world for marketing initiatives. When you are associated with your employer's Facebook business page, what you do and say on Facebook directly represents your company. Practicing professional Facebook etiquette is important to maintaining your employer's good reputation. Here is a starting point for guidelines you should follow on Facebook, so your personal life doesn't conflict with your professional image.

Interacting on your employer's account

Depending on your company's Social Media rules, it can be a good idea to be active on your employer's Facebook page from your personal account. You and your coworkers can effectively interact on the page simply by "liking" a post or a picture. The more you and your coworkers interact within the page, the better the chances of other Facebook users seeing and visiting it. In a Social Media chain reaction, one new "fan" or customer on Facebook can turn into many more.

Tagging your company in pictures can also make the business page more appealing to potential fans. Tag your company in pictures of you and your coworkers out of the office, at a conference, or at a charity event, but keep them professional! Don't include pictures of wild office parties or of employees on a business trip, lounging around.

When you do post on your employer's Facebook page, professionalism becomes doubly important. Swear words or derogatory terms would not be appropriate to use on the business page. When a client sees an inappropriate post on the company's page from an employee of that company, they see unprofessionalism. Keep your comments respectable and business-related. If your employer has Social Media guidelines to follow, it would be wise to follow them on your personal page as well as when you post on the company page. For example, if your employer prohibits use of a competitor's name on the business page, you should not mention a competitor while interacting on the page with your own account.

Your personal page

Just as you represent your company at work, on a business trip, or at a conference, your Facebook page also represents your employer and your fellow employees. Any unprofessionalism on your Facebook page seen by clients or potential customers will leave them with an impression that the company, and possibly all of its employees, is unprofessional.

Start with your profile picture. Keep the picture clean and appropriate, as it is the first thing clients see and likely the only thing they will see if they are turned away by it. Also, when you are associated with a company on Facebook, posts on the business page are not the only posts that need to be kept professional. Anything you say online, such as a status update, post to a friend, or comment on a picture is permanent and can be easily passed around. Once again, you should follow the same rules that are in your employer's Social Media guidelines on your profile. If your employer prohibits releasing any confidential information, such as client information, you do not have the right to do it on your own page.

If you do network with clients on Facebook, keep in mind that they will be able to see your Facebook page and what you post can give them positive or negative impressions.

The easiest way to avoid any possible conflict is to keep your page out of scrutiny by using Facebook's privacy options. Facebook allows you to keep your page as secure or as unsecure as you want. Keeping your page secure by only allowing "friends" to see more than your name and profile picture is an easy way to remain professional.

What you say on Facebook is just as influential as what you personally say to a current or potential client or customer. If you would not do it or say it in person, do not post it on Facebook. When you are on Facebook and are part of a company, the expectations of professionalism follow you. Whether it is a status update, a message to a friend, or a post on the company's "wall," your clients and your employer expect to see a positive representation of the company. You can still have fun on Social Media sites, but check with your employer for guidelines on what to say and not say, and keep a professional mindset.

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