So, how many of your Facebook friends are your direct reports? Have one of those “friends” asked you to write a recommendation for her on LinkedIn? Social media is a treacherous sea for team leaders to navigate, so come on managers, let’s talk about social media best practices for managers!

Remember the Seinfeld episode when George Constanza complains that his two worlds – work and private life – are colliding? He claimed that if those worlds collided, they would both blow up. Well, George, those worlds haven’t just collided – they’ve merged.

I acknowledge that it is close to impossible to separate your work world with your home world. So keeping them apart isn’t the goal. Instead, you must set boundaries with your work family and home family and you must defend those borders. As a leader, what you do on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter can have devastating consequences for your career – and that “other” world: your home, your family. Here are 2 important guidelines.

#1  Use Facebook for friends – not work pals.

I bet you’re not surprised to hear me express this opinion. Friending your direct reports and your manager will lead to more problems than promotions. It’s tasteless for you to share pictures of yourself in a thong bikini and it is inappropriate for a team member to demonstrate his beer bong capabilities. Once you cross those boundaries, you cannot return! And if you’re saying, Come on, “Leila, I don’t post those things,” well, your friends may be sharing those snapshots or summaries of that weekend in Vegas – without your permission or knowledge. What’s the worst thing that could happen? You get fired or lose an opportunity to be promoted – one you never knew about because your manager said to himself, “this person is unsuitable.”

#2  Use LinkedIn Recommendations Sparely and Carefully

For leaders, LinkedIn can be an incredible resource to network, identify and screen new team members, and plot your own next greatest move. It also can be a minefield.
Take recommendations. Recommend sparely. Agree to write them for people who know very well, those you truly would recommend without hesitation. Be specific and be detailed. Writing a rec for a current team member, your own manager, and any employee at your current company is taboo. What could happen? That superstar employee whom you publically praised in a LinkedIn recommendation could turn into the employee from hell. And managing her out will be even harder because the entire world can read your glowing admiration. When soliciting a recommendation, choose individuals who know you and your strengths without any prompting from you.

If these guidelines feel confining to you and you’re now thinking, “Come on, Leila! Loosen up! Let me have a little fun!” Well, ahh, go ahead and have fun then. Post all the pictures you want, tell me everything you’ve ever eaten, worn, bought, or thrown away, and why it drives you nuts that your neighbor’s dog barks when you walk into your yard. You’ll have plenty of time to do that because you will have been fired after tweeting something like “this new client of ours whose name starts with an a, ends with an e, and makes things called i blank is driving me nuts.”

© Leila Bulling Towne 2010

Pin It on Pinterest