Perhaps it's only a fad, but social networking is one of the hottest trends and not just among the typical trendsetting groups. College students, young professionals, actors, musicians, homemakers, grandparents, youngsters and plenty of others have created pages on social networks such as Facebook and Myspace. That includes people who work for you. You may not think you need a policy regarding online networking, but you may want to at least know the risks (and benefits) involved.

Whether it was embraced because of its ability to connect distant friends, to reunite old acquaintances or simply to provide a member with his online equivalent of "15 minutes of fame," social networking has grown in popularity and it remains to be seen into what role it eventually settles. Even now, the network a person belongs to can provide an idea of what they expect to get out of it. For instance, LinkedIn caters to business networkers, where Facebook tends to be more social.

All of these networks have their pros and cons. Why network? The obvious answer is connections. Being connected and being in real-time contact certainly have their advantages. Need a technical question answered? Your connections on LinkedIn may provide a faster answer than your company's tech support. Another advantage of this people-finding resource is that introductions come from people you know, and are therefore "vouched for."

There are downsides as well. Some employees start out by using it as a tool, but like any new technology it can quickly become a source of distraction. And there are some bad guys out there with fake profiles, gleaning information for their own purposes.

If you do choose to allow networking, here are some guidelines to offer your employees:

Choose a respectable, if not professional, network. Not all networks are created equal. Choose wisely.

Keep your business and social networks separate. While it's okay to include business contacts whom you know socially in your social network, do not add your buddies to your business network.

Know how to control who views your profile and that of your friends. If you have a facebook page from college that you don't want seen by your business colleagues, know how to limit access to your pages. If a business associate finds your social page, simply send an add request to them from your business network.

Keep your business page professional, and use only for business purposes. Don't join inappropriate groups or take other actions that put your employer - and your job or reputation - at risk.

While a complete ban on social networking in the workplace may be the prudent course of action for some employers, there are several advantages for who tread carefully.

Camandago, Inc. Lead Investigator Shellee Hale often is asked to speak about Social Networking do's and dont's helping to improve productivity and minimize risks personally and professionally you can request information about her internal class on Social Networking Etiquette by emailing

Author's Bio: 

Camandago, Inc. was founded by Washington State Private Investigator Shellee Hale. Shellee has been involved in business and management consulting for over 20 years. Most of her clients were high tech firms seeking to utilize new technology for a business advantage. As the Internet grew, Shellee’s toolset expanded to include many forms of electronic information for her clients. After providing electronic research for a legal case, Shellee went on to earn her private investigator license and has enhanced her technical consulting expertise with strategic electronic and Internet-based investigative skills. Shellee is on the board of the Washington Association of Legal Investigators.