In today’s “always-on” world with access to people 24/7, the lines between work and personal time have become blurry. Many business people may not fully understand the career or relationship repercussions of WhatsApp’ing a colleague at 10 pm about a work issue or messaging an agency on a public holiday on something that can wait until Monday. The reality is that personal time is a valuable resource, and business professionals need to recognise this.
A guideline to social media etiquette:
- Contact people within business hours, preferably between 9 am and 4 pm. This communicates you respect their time and allows them to settle in and deal with emails first thing in the morning. Sending WhatsApp, phoning, or sending messages after hours or on weekends could negatively impact your relationship and career trajectory. If you do contact someone after-hours, consider if the topic is a crisis or if it can wait until Monday.
- Preferably communicate with colleagues or anyone in your business network by email. This can be followed up by a text message if it is urgent. Many people view WhatsApp as their “personal space,” so only once someone has WhatsApp’ed you back, can you move to WhatsApp as a way to communicate.
- If you are WhatsApp’ing someone on a work topic, and you’ve exchanged 3 messages, pick up the phone and have a conversation. It is more efficient and effective.
- What you say on WhatsApp groups, conversations, or on social media platforms can impact your career. Some topics like Hate Speech, Defamation, Gender Violence, Bullying or Fake News (to name a few) can be prosecuted – even sharing links of this nature on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, or any other platform.
- If a link that is unlawful (gender violence, racism, harassment etc.) is shared with you, block and delete it immediately (if it’s downloaded into your gallery, also delete). You can be prosecuted for engaging in any unlawful content, even if you did not create it. This will impact your career.
- Commenting on racism, politics, religion and implying or saying you are unhappy at home or work on social media can impact your credibility and career. Remember, you generally will be connected with at least a couple of people at work. If you put content on social media that might not “show your best life” – then have strict privacy settings and make sure no colleagues or clients are connected to you.
For WhatsApp Work Groups, in particular, follow some simple rules:
- Keep the conversation about business.
- If you don’t have something constructive to say, don’t say it. The objective of a WhatsApp Work Group is to communicate and flag risk in an appropriate, businesslike manner.
- If someone is not constructive in the group, don’t respond. If you manage this person, call them, and ask them to delete the comment.
- If you have an issue with someone, call them or WhatsApp them directly. Issues on non-delivery or behaviour should not form part of a group discussion.
- It is advised not to share jokes or comments of a sexual nature.
- Keep the spamming to a minimum and only send relevant messages.
- Unless it is a crisis, don’t message after 6 pm.
Remember, every post, “thumbs up” or click you make online leaves a trail. A digital footprint that can affect your future. Many people make the mistake of thinking that what they say on Facebook, “Like” on Instagram, comments on WhatsApp Groups or Google online is part of their personal life and has no impact on their future. In today’s digital economy, that is no longer true.
Everything you say or do leaves digital breadcrumbs that impact your career and your relationships. How people perceive you is often determined by how they see you interacting on social media – this can be either positive or negative.
The risk is real. Many companies will look at your digital footprint and make decisions about your credibility and ability to make good decisions based on what you have posted, liked, or commented on. Some organisations even do regular digital reviews of employees to identify risks and opportunities. And let’s face facts. Before joining an organisation, you check out their digital profile to see if you “match.”
What’s the solution? It’s not to go offline, as some people may think. Instead, understand and harness the power of social media and use it as a tool to manage and shape your career!