MSLs – Watch Your “Keys” on Soc/Nets

The wonderful thing about the web 2.0 world is that you get to become visible in more ways than before. This accessibility and visibility also make social networking sites and social media sites dangerous.

Not long ago, on one of the many medical affairs LinkedIn groups, one of the members asked a question about a MSL program practice. One of the MSL members in the group gave a helpful answer, but then deleted the answer a short time afterward because he saw that almost all activities he conducted on LinkedIn was clearly branded with his name – and since he had filled out his employment history as expected by LinkedIn – his current company name was also displayed. His picture and name and affiliation remained in display next to the flag, “Message deleted”.

Companies are beginning to create policies for their employees related to social media, but they will generally blanket this under “Internet” or “Web” policies for employees. For the most part, companies won’t try to stop you from providing personal opinions on the internet, or have a problem if you put up a personal homepage. They’re more worried about you leaking what may be considered trade secrets (now what may be considered trade secret may be vague and open to interpretation) or putting the company at risk because you decided to give advice that may be interpreted as the company’s stance because of your employment.

I’ve seen some excellent use of social media and social networking tools both from the employer/employee side. Companies are increasingly adopting social media as part of their “marketing” channels. Employees are also networking more online via major networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. The unemployed or contract employees are leveraging social networks to land a new job.

You probably already know that your boss or coworkers or recruiters may be searching your name on the web, don’t you? (If not, you know now!) The old background checks have become easier to conduct in today’s globally connected web.

The problem is that we can get a bit complacent when we have the illusion that there is a “wall of privacy” for some of the major social networking sites. Facebook for example, recently added many privacy settings that you can adjust. Twitter long gave us the ability to delete tweets we didn’t like… but there’s a catch – your tweet will REMAIN in Twitter search, which means everyone in the world can still see what you’d rather take back (just ask the POTUS and the infamous tweet about his “off the record” remark about Kanye’s outburst).

Just because social media/social networking sites ask “What’s on your mind?” doesn’t require you to literally spout off whatever was on your mind, thinking that you’re safe behind the privacy walls.

You may control whom you allow into your network, but you don’t – and can’t – control your network’s network. If you believe in a six-degree of separation phenomenon, then your comment may be just a few degrees away from people you really don’t want to be reading your complaint about the stupidity of your company or why a certain employee is clueless. You may be commenting on someone else’s comment, and somehow it evolves into a discussion about how you can take advantage of the company expense account… of course, all in jest – you’re just joking! Surely people can tell you’re joking!

But this is probably a bet you don’t want to make, or be on the losing end of it.

Want to share examples of what to do or what not to do on social networking sites?