Editing your profile or dropping off Twitter is no guarantee that you'll erase past indiscretions -- just ask Soren Dayton. A former campaign aide for John McCain, Dayton was suspended after one of his individual Twitter dispatches, or "tweets," linked to a YouTube video that cast aspersions on Barack Obama's patriotism. Although the offending tweet is gone, Dayton's deeds were relentlessly covered online -- thereby guaranteeing that his social networking gaffe will be revived anytime someone does a search on his name.
As Block said, "If you choose to connect your personal profile with work, do not post anything you wouldn't feel comfortable with a client or the general public seeing."
3. Thou shalt set boundaries
There are a number of situations where you'll have to figure out where to draw lines. The first and most obvious: You plainly don't want to keep your supervisor in the loop on your year-long Scrabulous battle with your brother. However, integrating colleagues and clients in your network can prove to be very tricky. Do you automatically accede to your boss's request that you "friend" her on Facebook? Do you add the colleague you find to be grossly incompetent to your LinkedIn network? These are the kinds of questions you'll have to figure out how to answer.
The other boundary dilemma in social networking boils down to this: What happens if your workplace concludes that your network is its asset? Ron Solish points out that professional network groups are analogous to Rolodexes. "If employees leave, why should they get access to those networks?" he asks.
Solish says workplaces are still evaluating how to manage networks of contacts that its employees use in a professional capacity. Just be advised: The issue of who owns the online client list will be emerging for many organizations. Another issue, Solish says, will be whether former employees can still participate in employer-specific groups on networking sites.
4. Thou shalt not limit thy employees' time on social networks*
*Unless it seriously cuts into their productivity
The primary value of a social network is the aggregation of people on it. Block your employees from getting on a network, and you block their access to developing a far-flung group of people who can act as free advisers, leads for new businesses, or prospective new hires.
"If you're isolated, you're of no value to a manager," says Tom Hayes, author of "Jump Point: How Network Culture Is Revolutionizing Business." He adds, "And if you're management, ask yourself: What walled garden has ever prospered over time?"
Hayes says that social networks effectively disseminate information about industry trends, product announcements, and new talents. He adds, "Your best employees are the ones who are the most connected and most current."
Block says that social networks' real value rests in making an added connection that previously was not present, especially if those connections lead to offline partnerships.
5. Thou shalt not leave thy employees to founder, but lay down workplace guidelines
This way, you and your employer don't look incompetent or make a highly public gaffe. Block recommends the following steps: