5 Ways to Uncover The Hidden Social Media Rules of Your Office

In almost any workplace, there are hidden rules that govern how things get done. Perhaps you’ve noticed there’s magically a fresh pot of coffee ready at specific times throughout the day–who makes that? Or you’ve spotted a group of people leaving the office together on Thursday afternoons–where are they going? Your colleague has scored two promotions in the same time you’ve scored zero–what’s happening?

Cloudy worker

Get some clarity around social media at work with these five tips to uncover the hidden social media rules of your office.

A few years ago I spoke at conference hosted by the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of DC on this very topic, and it was amazing how many people have experienced this phenomenon and how few seemed to know what to do about it. It seemed like most of the attendees felt like they were automatically assigned a role on either the inside or the outside, and that they had no control over changing their position. This isn’t true, but it takes some work to find out where you fit in and either stay there or move into a new space.

It’s the people who learn and adapt to these unwritten rules that tend to get ahead at work, and I believe social media is becoming the same. Do you know how your workplace perceives social? Are you colleagues active participants? Do you know where you fit in on your office’s social media scale? If you’re not sure, here are five ways to figure out where you stand and chart a path moving forward.

  • Do your research: does your office have a social media policy? Don’ t assume the answer is know because you haven’t seen one. Ask your supervisor, check with HR or dig around on your corporate intranet to see if one exists. If you find one, read it! Ignorance won’t be an excuse if you violate company policy.

  • Emulate your colleagues: not sure how to best approach engaging with people or sharing information on social networks? Spend some time observing what colleagues you respect do–these days just about every office has people active in social media. This is a good place to start.

  • Tweet for the job you want, not the job you have: this is a play on the old adage “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” I don’t mean engage in a public search for a new job online for all to see. Instead, if you aspire to be a manager, look at what your management team is doing in social media and follow their lead. If your boss isn’t tweeting all day and you aspire to someday have her job, perhaps you shouldn’t be either (unless your position requires it). It’s also a good way to join in conversations about your industry and share useful tips, news and info.

  • Stay in your comfort zone: remember your activity is public, so even if you see your colleagues engaging in online shenanigans (and getting away with it) don’t feel pressured to do the same.  It’s up to you to At the end of the day you’re responsible for the content of your accounts. Similarly, decide your comfort with being online “friends” with your boss and colleagues.

  • Keep it simple: there are tons of social networks–you don’t have to engage in all of them just because others use them. Maybe Twitter and Pinterest is enough for you. Overextending yourself for the sake of social media isn’t a good way to manage your career!

Share your other ideas for ways to figure out how to manage social media at work in the comments below.