when your company wants to hijack your social media accounts

A reader writes:

I work at a women’s magazine. We have a a lot of advertiser promotions that we feature on our social media outlets (Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest). I have been asked numerous times to post these on my personal social media accounts to garner more eyeballs. This is something I don’t feel comfortable with, but am looked down upon for not doing so, as I’m not going out of my way to promote the brand.

Should employees be pressured to do this type of promotion? What are appropriate boundaries?

This is both annoying and increasingly common.

You used to see it mainly in nonprofits, where the assumption was that you support the cause they’re advocating and would want to share advocacy opportunities (or whatever) with your connections. But then it spread to businesses, and it got a lot more annoying, because asking people to share ads for businesses is really an imposition. (And to be clear, I’m not saying nonprofits should require it either, just that it’s less ridiculous to suggest a share in that context.)

If I were in your shoes, I’d probably say, “Sorry, but it’ll just annoy my friends/followers, and that won’t be helpful.” And if that didn’t go over well, I’d do what I could to make it look like I didn’t have any of those accounts (locking down Facebook, not using my real name on others, etc.).

But I wanted a social media pro’s take on this, so I turned to my personal social media wizard and friend, Erica Manney, who writes youshouldonlyknow.com. She says: “This is totally annoying when it comes to regular companies asking general employees (like, accounting, or the IT people) to put things on social media, and a different thing when you are a media company and in a public role such as social media person.”

This is true. So are you in a social media role? Or are you a regular, non-social-media person? If the former, Erica points out: “If you’re a social media person, you kind of have to be ‘bought in’ to your job. You’re the #1 cheerleader, public voice, and advocate. If you aren’t willing to promote and be excited about your company, even to your own social network, within reason, you may not be in the right role at the right company. /koolaid”

She also asks, “How big is her own personal social network? How many more eyeballs are they really hoping to gain? If she’s a regular, non-power user, then them asking her to do this is kind of stupid. The campaign should be so big that one extra person wouldn’t even register.”

Overall, she says, “This is a stupid request, unless you are a known power user — but it is the changing way of the world, and I could see why they would want you to do it as a show of support.”

Her suggestions for you: “Explain that certain profiles are private (or … don’t, because ones you intend to keep private should already be locked down) and then publicly and occasionally use your other platforms. Because … that’s kinda the way things are going.”

I think this is right. If social media is part of what you’re there to do, well, this is part of how social media works. The lines are blurred between personal and professional accounts, at least on some platforms. But if that’s not your job, then go with some combination of polite demurrals, account lockdown, the occasional tweet for good will, and trying to get away with ignoring the rest of it.

{ 140 comments… read them below }

  1. WorkIt*

    “If you aren’t willing to promote and be excited about your company, even to your own social network, within reason, you may not be in the right role at the right company. /koolaid”

    I kind of agree with this, but still want to keep my accounts free of stuff. I’m in online marketing and think most of my company’s services are lame. I hate when my boss asks us to promote our service because I find it embarrassing. I’m currently looking for a new job, but not everyone can transfer to a new role or find a super awesome company at will.

    1. clobbered*

      I think you got to the heart of the issue with the word “lame”. Fundamentally, if you have to browbeat your own employees into spreading your campaign, your campaign is lousy.

      If I worked at a company and they had a really great ad, or a aweome promotion, or a great product, I’d tweet it myself out of pride. The fact that you have to ask me to do it? Dude, I am not bailing out your boring ineffectual campaign with my social network.

      1. -X-*


        Whether for-profit promotions or non-profit campaigns, if the outreach is a good, then employees who are proud of the work and not-super-private online will share some of the stuff. Which is nice.

        Otherwise, no. So don’t expect them to.

        Even if the stuff is great, don’t expect them to. Just hope they do, and keep putting out good material that they might choose to share.

      2. Jen M.*

        Not necessarily. Many people like to keep personal and work and personal and business separate. Most people don’t want to annoy their friends/followers/connections.

        I run a business on the side, and I have a rule: I will promote my business stuff to my personal network ONCE and once only. For example, if I’m doing a show or exhibit or whatever, I’ll post it to my personal stream once and then never again.

        My friends generally support what I do, but they’d ditch me if I became a salesperson.

        So, even if I worked for a company with a really amazing product and great advertising campaigns, I probably would NOT promote it to my friends.

  2. fposte*

    This sounds like the contemporary answer to Tupperware parties–business disguised as personal.

  3. Janet*

    It’s an interesting issue – for most businesses I think the “no” makes sense. However, I will say that working for a magazine is slightly different even if you aren’t in a social media role. I work in PR and very frequently follow reporters/writers on twitter. So if John Smith is a reporter for Time Magazine and his twitter account is @johnsmith his bio usually says “I write tech news for Time Magazine” and they frequently post links to their own articles, links to other articles that are interesting in the magazine or in their beat and they ask for story help like “I’m working on an article looking at people with no Facebook accounts – let me know if you want to be interviewed” – So if the poster is a writer/editor, she kind of has to go with the trend and post about the magazine or have a protected private page for friends/family only.

    1. AG*

      I think it entirely depends on the type of social media user you are. I agree, if you’re a reporter or something and your twitter handle is very publicly connected to your work life, than this makes sense. But it’s sorta tacky to be pushing your company’s agenda on your FB page to your friends and family.

  4. Kelly O*

    We had someone come around and ask us individually if we were following our company on all social media outlets.

    I am not. I “like” the Facebook page, but don’t normally comment on it. Not even because I am completely not our target audience, but I feel like if it’s something I wouldn’t share on its own merit, I’m not sharing it just because I work there. That’s kind of my litmus test for sharing anything – am I sharing it because I either personally like it, or because it would be of general interest to my friends? That’s okay.

    What I don’t like is the new trend of “like and share to win this chocolate teapot set!” or things like that. I feel like that’s just a bit disrespectful to my friends and family.

    FYI – I am also that person who immediately removed the “Carmax” sticky thing from the back of my car, and I am generally “anti-label” anyway. I don’t fancy being a walking billboard.

    (Okay, I will cop to wearing the company t-shirt today. Although I am wearing it under a cardigan, and with a ton of layered necklaces, but I am wearing it…)

    1. Ornery PR*

      Yes. I love your view on this, Kelly O. I work in PR and I champion my company brand because I’ve truly bought into it and want it to succeed. But I won’t share with my personal network most things I post to the company pages, because my network is not their audience anyway. And if they were, I would be careful and considerate of them not bug the crap out of them. I’m with you on not being a billboard for companies (my company pays me to do this, but does Apple? Does Gap? Does any sports franchise? No.) I even go so far to cover labels I don’t want visible. Being a corporate sellout without even being compensated? No thank you :)

      I agree with AAM that if you’re sharing company propaganda reluctantly with your network/friends/family, you’re not doing the company any favors anyway. Engagement goes a long way, and until you’re convincingly invested in the product, the company probably doesn’t want you as their spokesperson. I wouldn’t explain this to your company, OP, as they probably don’t want to hear that you’re not championing their brand (which is fine – some jobs are just jobs), so ignoring requests and locking down your networks seems like perfect advice to me.

    2. WorkIt*

      I don’t get the intense focus on “Likes.” What does it even get a company besides perceived popularity? Plus, shady folks can buy Likes. My company mysteriously got hundreds of Likes from people in India and East Asia one week.

      1. Janet*

        The “likes” are mainly because most positions doing social media are new. So the higher-ups might not appreciate or see the full need to have some people there and they want to see results and measurement to make sure that this is something that is worth sinking money into year-after-year. Social media managers feeling a lot of pressure for social media interactions will do these sorts of things so they can show an increase in engagement and better argue their existence. But yes, I agree, it’s silly and there is likely a better way to prove your worth but it’s the easiest.

    3. Jeff*

      Not really adding anything to the discussion, but this seems like the perfect opportunity to mention that on my truck, I removed the “x” to change “Carmax” to “Carma” and stuck a Yin-Yang badge next to the name.

  5. C*

    Related question – what about employers asking you to write fake Yelp reviews? I hostess at a restaurant (so social media is not part of my job), and have been provided a list of fake profiles that I am to use to create these positive reviews. I feel uncomfortable writing these glowing reviews when I actually agree with the criticism of the current low reviews. Any ideas to handle these requests by management?

    1. kristinyc*

      Ew, that’s really shady and unethical. I wouldn’t do it.

      Are the things people are complaining about fixable? I would hope management would be more concerned about fixing the problems than hiding them.

      1. Erica*

        I definitely agree – this is beyond shady and downright unethical. It’s a different ballpark.

        As for how to handle it, I’m not quite sure. I guess the way you’d handle any other unethical request from a manager — clearly more an AAM question!

    2. EngineerGirl*

      Yes. Call it fraud, because that is what it is. As far as your boss goes, tell him that most review sites have stiff penalties for fake reviews. Ask him if the risk is worth it.

      And then start looking for a new job. If your employer is dishonest in this “little” thing then they are dishonest period.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Can you tell them it violates Yelp’s terms of service and you’re not comfortable with that? (It certainly does in spirit, if not in letter — but maybe it does in letter too.) That would require them to say directly, “We want you to violate their TOS,” which they’re less likely to openly say.

      1. Ash*

        Here’s some pertinent info from their TOS: http://www.yelp.com/static?country_=US&p=tos

        “You may not impersonate someone else (e.g., adopt the identity of a celebrity or your next-door neighbor), create or use an account for anyone other than yourself, provide an email address other than your own, or create multiple accounts.”

        They also have a handy Content Guidelines page: http://www.yelp.com/guidelines

        “Conflicts of interest: Your contributions should be unbiased and objective. For example, you shouldn’t write reviews of your own business or employer, your friends’ or relatives’ business, or businesses in your networking group.”

    4. Mike C.*

      If it gets to the point where you are forced to write the fake reviews, I say write them. Then when you get home say contact Yelp and let them know anonymously what is going on.

        1. L McD*

          I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it, but if it helps, this isn’t going to make one bit of difference. Yelp hides reviews of users who don’t have a lot of interaction/friends/etc. etc. to the point where tons of legitimate reviews actually get hidden. It’s very unlikely that any fake reviews will get any traction, or even be visible on the page/count for their average rating. Many of my legit reviews are hidden simply because I don’t have a vast social network on there, and I tend to only review businesses I really love a lot to help them out. A bunch of five-stars is another red flag for them, I think.

    5. MentalEngineer*

      If you absolutely have to write them, do so poorly. Just look at some reviews that Yelp has filtered for looking like they were written by a computer program, and make yours look like that. Your reviews will get filtered, won’t factor into the rating, and won’t be seen by most people who check the page. (Actually, your reviews may get filtered anyway – Yelp’s pretty good at finding fake profiles.)

      Best of all, you have (somewhat) plausible deniability because Yelp doesn’t disclose how the filter works. You can just say “I did the best I could, I don’t know why all the reviews were filtered!” They might just give the job to someone else, but at least then you wouldn’t have to do it.

      1. Esra*

        Yelp has kind of a bad reputation when it comes to their filtering. My regular, not-paid-for-reviews self gets filtered all the time for pretty straight forward reviews.

  6. kristinyc*

    We’re encouraged to tweet and share our product launches on social media, but there’s no implicit pressure to do it. Most people share it anyway. I don’t mind – I really like my company’s products, and they’re things that would actually be relevant for my Facebook friends.

    Our company’s online presence is EXTREMELY important to our success, so we’re actually taking it one step further – we’re having a photographer come in and take headshots that will be used mostly for internal stuff (gmail, wiki, etc), but we’re being encouraged to make them our profile pictures for Linkedin and other social networks as well. I feel like the LinkedIn part is pushing it a little, but our company’s getting a lot of media attention right now, and pretty much everyone is getting requests from their friends/contacts about working here, so I guess it makes sense.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I remember you saying on a past post that you work at Warby Parker, and I have to tell you that as a result of that mention, I checked out the site and found the only pair of glasses that has ever looked good on me. I still can’t believe it. I usually look like I have some kind of facial distortion going on when I wear glasses, and these are actually flattering. I am a huge fan now.

      (Look at that — natural marketing that no one asked me to do.)

      1. kristinyc*

        Aw, glad you found some great frames! :)

        (And if you’re now getting lots of emails from WP – I’m the one sending them! Whoa!)

        1. Ash*

          I love Warby Parker’s style and actually ordered some “try-on” pairs, but none of them fit my huge Irish head! I was so sad because they were such awesome glasses. :/

            1. kristinyc*

              I can talk to the product manager about it. :)

              Our widest pairs are the Thatcher and the Bensen, so try those out. We also have a new collections launching every few weeks, and the next one does have some wider frames.

              1. Sascha*

                I’m super pumped about this site. I just ordered my try on pairs. Please pass along my compliments to your web design team – the site is beautiful and I’m enjoying look at the site as much as the glasses.

      2. Erica*

        THIS is how social media works!

        (I really WANT to buy something from WP. But I’m also saving up for LASIK. But the marketing is so good that I’m trying to find an excuse. Testify!)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Ready for this? I bought the glasses BECAUSE I want Lasik. When I went for a Lasik consultation, I found out that you can’t wear contacts for the full week before the procedure; you have to wear glasses. I had no glasses I was willing to wear. So I got these, so that I can eventually get Lasik.

          1. Erica*

            So O.Henry!

            I actually just bought a pair of expensive frames from somewhere else, because … not only did I forget about WP, I also forgot about my insurance discount ending soon and I was in a time crunch. I’m hoping they’re my last pair.

            (Email me so we can discuss lasering our eyes.)

          2. Elizabeth*

            I did LASIK right after the first of the year. I love it. They told me 2 weeks out of contacts prior to the procedure. Also, if you are prone to migraines, you are almost assured to have one the day of the surgery. The only concern they was could I keep down the Valium so that I didn’t wriggle during then procedure.

            On the social media front, I don’t have my association with my employer anywhere on any platform. I keep a solid line between my personal & professional lives. It drives our PR person nuts, but she also understands why.

            1. Sarah G*

              I got Lasik in Sept. (for cheap, too!). I did a ton of research and read all sorts of studies on google scholar and probably asked the Dr. more questions than he’d ever been asked before, but I went in confident in my decision.
              Also, I am very migraine-prone and didn’t get a migraine the day of the surgery.
              I found this link helpful, btw: http://www.usaeyes.org/lasik/lasik-tough-questions.htm

              1. Sarah G*

                Oh, I meant to say I’m so glad I did it, and it was some of the best money I ever spent. The real catalyst though was that since moving to Denver, the dry climate was making my contacts almost intolerable!

          3. ExceptionToTheRule*

            LASIK was the greatest thing EVER. I went from everything that was more the 2 inches in front of my face being blurry to 20/20 vision in 6 hours.

            1. Al Lo*

              YES. LASIK was the best gift I gave myself last year. It was sort of a 30th birthday gift to myself; sort of a “well, I need new glasses and contacts anyway, so if I’m going to drop a few hundred dollars on those, I may as well decide now whether I’m going to drop a couple thousand on surgery instead” kind of decision.

              I love it. It’s been 6 months, and I’m finally used to waking up and not groping for eyewear before the room can come into focus.

              If anyone’s wanting outside input, particularly in the Calgary-area companies (Gimbel and LASIK MD were my two considerations), I’m happy to talk about my decision-making process and the surgery itself.

        2. Janet*

          So true! My 7 month old broke my glasses this morning and I just need to order a pair from them once I get around to getting my eyes checked.

        3. KimmieSue*

          I already checked out the Warby Parker and sent the link to two friends who are currently shopping for glasses! You are right! This is exactly one of the awesome benefits of social media!!!!

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            And this so illustrates that if you make a great product that people want, they will talk about it on their own. I’m a huge evangelist for products and services I like.

            1. kristinyc*

              That’s pretty much what our strategy has been – having a product/customer service that people love so much that they’ll promote us on their own.

              And for those of you getting LASIK – we have sunglasses too! (Rx and non-Rx). :)

              1. KarenT*

                Those are adorable! Please tell Warby Parker to ship to Canada! I love them and I know my friends would too.

                1. kristinyc*

                  We can ship to Canada, but we don’t have the home try-on available for Canada right now. There’s a virtual try-on available on the website.

                2. this*

                  Canadian also, 3rding a request for WP commitment to this market. It would be great if you could partner with someone this side of the border to facilitate the home try-ons. My ppd is on the wide side and I’m crap with cameras.

  7. Lori*

    It sounds like the op isn’t resisting posting about her own company, but about advertisers. Those advertisers are paying for organic views; not to be spread around among the staff’s personal network. Sounds like the company is trying to inflate their ad rate, unethically. This just happened with a popular women’s website SheKnows. I’m not sure I have much advice for the op, but I understood the question differently than the others are interpreted it.

    1. anon o*

      I think these are promotions – sort of like Time Magazine is giving away 10 free cars from GM and if you worked at Time they’d want you to post this on your fb page. In this case GM has probably paid Time (or at least provided 10 free cars) and the magazine is trying to provide value with the max # of likes or entries or whatever. If I work at Time and you are my friend GM probably doesn’t care…as long as they get you on their mailing list or have you look at their new car or whatever.

  8. Jeana*

    I am the social media manager for a business college and have drank the kool-aid and want to serve it to others. It’s tasty. :)

    However, any good social media manager always keeps the audience in mind. And that extends to my personal social media audience as well. It makes no sense for my personal account(s) to be sharing our business school student deadlines, or upcoming speakers (unless it’s interesting & open to the public). If there’s an article about business that I personally find interesting that the social media accounts share, sure, I’ll share it on my personal accounts, but that’s /me/ sharing it. Not the professional account.

    With my professional social media use, I don’t hijack other unrelated hashtags with my tweets, or go posting on completely unrelated walls on facebook… there’s strategy involved. Blanket posts smell spammy. I suppose this might be different for a more universal product (ie. Starbucks) but even then the followers have opted in to follow Starbucks. My friends didn’t opt-in to follow my social media work accounts when we connected as friends.

    Data and strategy should always accompany social media use… If the reader is the manager, they can support their personal stance with strategy & data.

    1. Anon*

      I love this. I think countering this with hard data and a little education on how social media works will help.

      I don’t like this mixing of personal and professional social media accounts. Too much room for something to go horribly wrong.

    2. LMW*

      I’m a content manager, so I post a lot to social media, and I think you’ve said it pretty well. Personally, I have my Facebook on lock-down. It’s for personal use only. My friends and family are not in my industry and posting news there would only harm my reputation – they would rightly find me obnoxious. LinkedIn is perfect for this type of thing, in my opinion, and that’s where I share company news. I also try to find our employees who actually are blogging or tweeting about our topics on their own – they are the only ones I’d ask to do this type of thing. Why would I want to ask Sandy-the-accountant to tweet about an engineering topic? Or post on Facebook to her friends? Makes no sense.

  9. Anne*

    ONE good thing about Facebook is that they allow you to restrict who sees any particular post. You could set up a group that includes only your managers/coworkers, and when you post work-related stuff, make it visible only to that group. They will think you are posting it to everyone.

    1. Mike*

      >They will think you are posting it to everyone.
      Unless they look at the share icon at the bottom of the FB status.

      1. KellyK*

        What does the Share icon say if you use a custom group? I have a “people I can’t talk politics with” custom group, as well as a couple “people who actually play this FB game and so won’t be annoyed by game spam.” If you used a group, they shouldn’t be able to tell whether it contained certain friends or just them. (For that matter, if you have friends who *would* be interested in your company’s updates, you could add them to that group.)

  10. Hmm*

    I’m in marketing and I have some social networks I’m okay with using for my business (a seperate Twitter account that doesn’t feature a million posts about my cat and my LinkedIn account) and some that I am not (Facebook and my personal twitter). I’ve found that having those two available for these kinds of things keeps the heat off of people trying to get me to do it on my personal pages. Maybe you can set up a professional Twitter and a LinkedIn page for stuff like this?

    1. Yup*

      I’m not in marketing and I use a similar approach. I’m fine posting about work things on LinkedIn, because these are business contacts and it’s a work-related forum. And I’m happy to write for the company blog or provide content for the official company twitter account under my own name. But I use Facebook and Pinterest for social/personal reasons: keeping in touch with friends, posting vacation photos, etc. I don’t want any blurring of business/personal there. I’m not even linked to coworkers on those sites. Plus, I don’t want my job looking at what I do or don’t post on FB etc.

    2. littlemoose*

      That was going to be my suggestion too – maybe not for FB, but you could easily use a second twitter account for work stuff.
      That said, Alison and Jeana had awesome advice, and I don’t think you can really go wrong by following it.

    3. Rana*

      Yeah, I don’t like the idea of being “encouraged” to post things to your feeds as a condition of your job, but setting up a few accounts for posting those things only might be an option.

      (Aside from the friend-annoying aspects, and the shilling aspect, I feel that such attitudes on the part of employers are disrespectful of their employees’ followers, efforts to create a following, and “brand” – not a good message for a company to send!)

  11. Joey*

    Thats kind of deceptive. It sounds like they’re trying to create a false sense of their advertising power.

  12. Andrew*

    It’s stuff like this that is gradually killing Facebook. In the long run it will consist of little but corporate promotions, which will be ineffective because people will no longer care.

    1. WorkIt*

      I agree! That and people posting images with “inspiring quotes” or political messages.

      1. Sandrine*

        Actually, some people do it rather well: take George Takei, for example. He likes puns and many other things. He does post tons of imagines and likes a good laugh, and will also admit to making mistakes from time to time. It feels pretty cool.

        There are people, however, that I have removed from my list because I was tired of the constant quotes and drama and whatnot.

    2. Chinook*

      This is one of the reasons I don’t even lurk on Facebook – it feels like it has just become a portal of semi-focused advertising. If I really like a product/business, I would prefer to sign up for mailings because then I not only know the source but I am not forced to tell all my friends that I am a diehard chocolate teapot fan as this could lead to awkward conversations or even alienation from my family and friends who believe chocolate teapots are a waste of space and believe that caramel coffee makers are infinitely better.

    3. DA*

      The day Facebook died was the day they went public. They have to find ways to keep generating revenue and as a result, they will drive people away.

      This can be reversed if they end up going private, but I don’t see that happening any time in the near future.

    4. EM*

      I’ve also noticed that young people really aren’t on Facebook anymore. It’s mostly people my age (mid-30s) and older.

      1. Laura L*

        Really? What do you mean by young people? I’m in my 20s and know a lot of other 20-somethings who are on Facebook. Even a lot of college students are on it.

  13. Editor*

    So, if you’re a power user you deserve to be exploited by your employer, but if you’re a wimp at social media you get a pass? That’s like saying if you’re an excellent bowler your company name should be on your shirt and every time you report a great score to the newspaper your employer should be mentioned. Does a person who bikes 100 miles a week have to wear an ad for their employer because they’re more visible on the roads, where the people who drive back and forth to work don’t have to display ads?

    This crossover between public and private is seriously annoying. One of my relatives, a generation younger than me, works in social media and relentlessly promotes the company on their time and on hers, even at family events. I don’t want to be asked to like my relative’s employer, whose goods are not even sold in my state. It’s as bad as having someone badger me about selling Amway or Tupperware or Mary Kay at work and at home. Because this isn’t pyramid marketing but technological marketing it’s all right to violate boundaries?

    A person who set up a social media account at home on their own time using their own equipment should not be asked to use the account to benefit their employer unless there’s financial compensation for such use. And anyone using personal social media should keep it separate from work (don’t post to Facebook from your work computer, people, if you don’t want to be asked to use your name for someone else’s ends without compensation). If an employee was a power user, I would expect that they’re not posting during working hours, but only at lunch or during legal breaks.

    I would be perfectly happy to have work Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest accounts separate from personal accounts if the terms of service allowed it. In fact, one of my former employers told me they were setting me up on Facebook for work, but the arrangements fizzled. They used my work ID photo for the account. But I would not want to have to use my personal accounts to friend my work accounts or have any connection between the two.

    Why is this so easy to understand when it’s Amway and so hard to understand when it’s Facebook?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      So, if you’re a power user you deserve to be exploited by your employer, but if you’re a wimp at social media you get a pass?

      If that’s part of the reason you were hired, it’s no different than a fundraiser or old-school PR person being hired in part because of the connections they’re expected to use.

      1. Editor*

        Quote: Overall, she says, “This is a stupid request, unless you are a known power user — but it is the changing way of the world, and I could see why they would want you to do it as a show of support.”

        I read this differently than you did, I think. If you’re hired because you’re a social media power user, then asking you to participate in promoting the employer is part of the job. I understood this quote to mean that people who had been hired for other reasons — but were powers on social media — should be expected to pitch in.

        Having done fundraising for my alma mater, I’m well aware the development office is staffed with people who have connections and those ties factor into the job. I don’t have a problem with that. As you note, it’s a qualification.

  14. Jess*

    Nothing will make me unfriend someone faster than marketing posts. It’s a form of using and makes people question your intentions in regard to your relationship with them. Icky, icky, icky. Even people in so-called “social media” roles should not be using their personal accounts to do this.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s another thing the OP could say — “My friends are notorious for un-following anyone who posts marketing stuff, and I’ll lose contacts over it.”

  15. TBoT*

    I don’t talk about work things on my personal social media because tying work to my personal accounts adds whole layers of accountability on my part. It’s not just a matter of annoying followers … if I start doing promo for my job on my personal account, my personal account is now tied to work. It affects how and what I communicate there.

    I try to present myself well in social media, since I know the Internet is forever and people will judge me by what is there, but beginning to do work stuff on my personal account means I always have to be “on.” It’s not a far hop to wind up in trouble for a picture from my vacation with a beer visible on the table, because my work has started to view my social stream as “theirs.”

    I’m also one of those crazy people whose Facebook doesn’t have an “add as friend” button thanks to being grandfathered in to much earlier (and more generous to users) privacy settings on the site.

  16. Not So NewReader*

    We could also put advertising on our cars. That way people will see the company promos as we drive into work.

    Then there are those of us with large front lawns that are perfect for billboards.

    To me, too much promo means wasted revenues. As a consumer, I am paying for all that advertising in the price of the product/service.

    Facebook does not appeal to me (ahem…). So I would have to wonder about a company that advertised on Facebook a lot. Projecting out in the future- will most of us close down our accounts because 75% of what is on there is an advertisement someone’s employer made them post on FB? I can read ads or gimmicks (er, uh “promos”) anywhere. That is not special.

  17. EngineerGirl*

    No, no, no. When my Dad worked for an auto company he was expected to show his belief in them by buying their products (offered at an amazing employee discount). That was the “advertising”. He was not expected to participat or “fund” the company’s ad campaign.

    This is pure boundary stomping by the employer.

  18. Ann O'Nemity*

    The social media person at my work has started pressuring us to market company products on our personal social media accounts. He also thinks we should set out profiles to public. My response was, “Um, no thanks.” and a quick exit.

      1. Anonymous*

        Are they also willing to PAY you to market the company products? That might shut down the conversation quickly.. (I know, it would be difficult to say this without workplace repercussions, but it’s fun to think about)

        1. Ann O'Nemity*

          I assumed that we were being asked to do this on the clock. So yes, it would be paid.

          1. Editor*

            Yes, but is there an additional base payment to “buy” your account, which you established on your own? After all, they regard it as a tangible asset, or else they wouldn’t be asking to use it.

            P.S. Love the punny name.

  19. VintageLydia*

    I actually unfriended a person’s Facebook and unfollowed his Twitter for this exact reason. The products he was selling were never meant to be targeted to the demographic of most his friends and family, but he had to post them anyway. They had him posting 5+ things a day. He might as well of turned over his passwords because he stopped posting personal things entirely.

  20. Ash*

    I agree that there should be some leeway w/r/t sharing non-profit updates/photos/whatever. I volunteer for a local animal shelter and I share some of the cute animal pictures we post, or post information about our upcoming adoption events (only the big, annual ones that are sponsored by companies and are part of a large, all-day event). I agree with the person up-thread who said that they would unfollow people who marketed to their friends because it’s spammy. I hope that I walk the line between “Look at the cute kittens we have!” and “OMG ADOPT AN ANIMAL FROM US NOW!” So far no complaints…

    1. Erica*

      And I think that’s the difference. This is “you” sharing information about a cause you care about, rather than you sharing information about the company for promotional purposes.

      If the OP finds some interesting advertiser campaign, or an article from the magazine – she should absolutely share with her own networks. But because “she” (or he) finds it interesting and worthy of their network, not because it’s part of the overall campaign or an obligation.

    2. Jess*

      This is totally different. This is something you really believe in that’s a good cause. Also, there’s never a bad reason to post cute animal pictures.

    3. AG*

      Right, because presumably you were a champion of adoptions and an animal love *before* you started working there, and you probably have friends/family who feel the same.

    4. Lindsay*

      I do the same thing. I really wish that I could post every dog and cat on my feed and find homes for them from there, but my network in my state is not big (less than 50 in my new state I would say). So I try to walk the line. I have “liked” the rescue, and like most of the posts they make. However, I only share an animal on my feed rarely – when it’s a really urgent case and an adopter needs to be found like now and/or if the animal is appealing to my friend group. I’ve probably posted 3 dogs in 5 months.

      I figure it’s not anywhere near enough to be spammy do when I post my friends will actually look at the creatures, but enough that they will remember the rescue and that I am involved in the rescue if they ever do decide they want a dog.

  21. Erica*

    Another point I should make about this request … it’s a sign of really bad online marketing.

    Social Media campaigns don’t exist in a bubble. You can’t be a “social media person” at a company without also being part of an overall PR or Marketing department. Are you also asked to hand out flyers, tune in to commercials, distribute press releases (or do whatever else your company does to market themselves)? I’d assume not.

    I wish companies would take social media marketing more seriously and stop with these crazy ideas.

  22. Soni*

    I created a “professional” page specifically for this purpose. It is for my professional postings, things relating to my career/field/profession and (at one time when I was working for such a company) for posting things related to work. My friends know about the page and were told only to like it if they were interested in that side of my life. I rarely use it for anything else, or anything much at all at the moment since I’m no longer working for that company, but it’s there if the need arises.

  23. KarenT*

    1. I have deleted multiple people from my fb/twitter because they were trying to sell me something. If the OP annoys her friends/acquaintences, this could be contrary to the company’s intentions.

    2. You also have to be willing to part ways with your accounts. There have been all kinds of cases in the media about people using their personal social media accounts for business use and having to fork them over when they part ways with the company.

  24. Anonymous*

    If they’re strongly suggesting you do this, why not create a “work” Twitter account? This way you can Tweet all you like for work and keep one for personal use. I have a personal and a “work” Facebook where I friended colleagues.

    1. A Bug!*

      Technically speaking, I believe having multiple accounts is against Facebook’s TOS. Practically speaking, I don’t think many people get burned by it, but it’s something to be aware of.

    2. Anon*

      Yep, I have a personal Facebook account and a work one from when I was in alumni relations. I didn’t friend alumni; they always requested me. It worked out well because when I posted things related to the university, it was showing up in the newsfeeds of people who were actually interested because they cared enough to seek me out on FB in the first place.

      Also, even though my personal FB is bare bones and appropriate, I didn’t like the idea of colleagues and alumni forming opinions based on more personal info. Even innocuous things like celebrating my cousin’s graduation at a country club could be interpreted by people who only know me in a work context as, “Oh, so she’s rich?” Better for them to only see photos of me at university events, updates about interesting work news, and a few carefully chosen personal tidbits.

  25. Abby*

    I work in social media/online marketing and I am responsible for most of our marketing campaigns. Because these are my ideas and fruits of my labor, I tend to share a great deal of company-related updates on my personal social sites. Also, as I work in staffing and recruiting, I feel like many people (including those in my network) can benefit from the offers and information we’re providing.

    However, when I worked at marketing agency and had clients (mainly law firms), I would never share their content personally, as most of my network wouldn’t benefit from it.

  26. COT*

    I admin our small nonprofit’s Facebook page, and I would never pressure employees to interact with us on Facebook if they didn’t want to. Some of them are privacy-centric online and don’t want to make it easy for our clients to find their profiles (we’re in social services).

    I DO let our staff know how to help us out on Facebook (tag themselves in photos, like our statuses, etc.). It’s completely optional, though, and I make that clear.

    I do some of those things myself, within reason, and sometimes I share something particularly interesting from our page. I also blog for a local think tank, and occasionally I share my own writings. But I try to limit that to once every several weeks or so, and only things I think my Facebook friends would actually find interesting. My friends are a mix of family, personal friends, and professional colleagues. Some of them do find my work really cool/interesting/inspiring but certainly not everyone.

  27. ThursdaysGeek*

    There is a family member who pushes her work place. I thought she had drunk the koolaid, but perhaps she’s being told to do it. Either way, I completely ignore those posts, and would block them if I could do that without completely blocking her. Now, considering that it might not be her choice, I will probably actively avoid that business. (I’m kind of an anti-ad curmudgeon, and certain ads will influence me to never buy that product.)

  28. Elle*

    I disagree with AAM and I’m actually shocked at her answer, given her authorship of this blog. I also think the OP should stop complaining before some young Gen Y (or more likely Gen Z) whippersnapper comes in and takes her job. If this is the hill she wants to die on, she should start measuring up her headstone.

    This is not like a non profit asking people to contribute. This is a fundamental shift in the content of certain jobs. Bottom line: jobs in magazines, social media, journalism, PR and all of these other very highly coveted, internship heavy industries are rife with nepotism and are often almost impossible to enter. The rise of social media and bloggers has actually democratized that process somewhat because now readership and online presence enable unconnected people to enter the industry in droves. Their trump card is that they have readership and followers. Companies value it. They don’t know how to do it and so they value it even more! I have two actual friends (real people, not anecdote people) who run (ran?) blogs and have managed to leverage those blogs into a highly prized position at a prestige organization. Yes, that job is an assistant level position but it’s almost impossible to get without mommy and daddy’s money greasing the way.

    The LW is in this kind of industry. Her new competition is a bunch of 20 year olds with thousands of unique views on their sites, and with wide reaching influence because of it. It’s not that she should be spamming her personal account with company bs, it’s that she should be concerned about her future at her company because she is behind the curve. She needs to have some authentic online profile that connects authentically to her work if she wants to remain competitive.

    Tl:dr: social media is the easiest way for younger, less experienced workers to distinguish themselves. They are doing so. The LW is making a strategically terrible decision not to do so herself.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      It really depends on the capacity you work in. If you aren’t a reporter, anchor, commentator, blogger, etc for your company, your friends and family are probably already following your employer on their own.

      OP – you might want to check your company’s social media policy as what you’re being asked to do might actually violate it. Ours is very specific about the professional risks we can incur by linking our private social media accounts to the company.

      1. Elle*

        Disagree. LW works for a women’s magazine. Any part of the editorial team – assistant, editor, buyer etc. They should all be on social media. It’s not like working for the NY Times. It’s a product selling business.

        1. VintageLydia*

          Thre is a difference between maintaining a professional blog and twitter, and posting spam on your personal Facebook. If you must, you can make a public page for your professional side (like the AAM Facebook page or other fan pages) but that doesn’t sound like what the OP’s employer wants. As I noted above, I’ve absolutely defriended people who’s pages became advertising spaces for their companies, and I’m not the only one. By the way, I’m one of those Gen Y whippersnappers.

    2. Editor*

      @Elle: In my newspaper experience, I didn’t see much nepotism. Perhaps it depends on whether the owner is a corporation or a family.

      Any worker can use social media to try to make a name for themselves, but they shouldn’t trample their friends and family to do it. For their own protection, they should keep private social media accounts and work-related social media accounts separate, as many others have noted here.

      If the magazine wants to pay a staff member for the time and effort of setting up work-related social media accounts and promoing the magazine or its advertisers, fine. If the magazine wants to glom onto the staff member’s family members and friends, not so fine. The magazine isn’t paying the family members and friends.

      People who want their personal relationships to be separate from work aren’t buggy-whip-dependent, they’re just normal.

      Just because someone’s friends sent sexts to their romantic interests doesn’t mean everyone else should go ahead and send sexts, any more than someone should jump off the railroad trestle into the river because other kids did it or someone should shill for their employer in a personal communication just because other staff members did it.

      1. Elle*

        This is not about “paying people to create social media accounts”. Work doesn’t pay for your clothes either; it’s just a professional expectation. Social media is a professional expectation in certain industries. So, yes, you should be doing it on your own time and not complaining about it.

        As for nepotism – I assume you are implying that there is no nepotism in large (prestigious?) news organizations, only in family run organizations? That’s very sweet. It’s not true but it’s a nice thought. Plenty of nepotism at the highest levels.

        LW can create work appropriate ones if she likes but I stand by the opinion that she should be on social media. As I said below, as someone who relies on social media for all of my make up needs, she’s basically not doing her job if she’s not engaged.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But you don’t even know what her job is — what if she’s the accountant? Or a computer programmer? I agree — and the post originally said — that if you work in certain fields, this is part of your job. But it’s not the case across the board.

          The fact that you rely on social media for your makeup needs does mean that a magazine’s accountant should be expected to tweet on behalf of the company.

          (By the way, I have lots of journalists in my family and none of them got their jobs through nepotism. I think you’re seeing this through a fairly … narrow? lens. And being condescending to others in the process, so please cut that out.)

    3. Erica*

      And I think it’s almost exactly this attitude that creates an environment that allows campaigns like the OP mentioned and “begging for likes” to exist.

      Social Media is definitely the “future” but it’s not limited to those who are a) entry level b) well-greased or connected or c) young or d) interns.

      As a real life anecdote, I did not get into social media until I was about 4 years into my already-existing customer service/marketing career. I have never interned in this (or anything, other than archaeology), and I find myself just north of 30 and also the oldest person in my entire marketing department, and most of the editorial team as well.

      Social Media is new, exciting and often filled with young, idealistic “experts” but — it doesn’t have to be, to be done well.

      (Damn. I can’t believe I am finally old enough that my advanced age is proof that it’s not just a young kid’s game. Damn.)

    4. Elle*

      Oh, and the whippersnapper was a bit tongue in cheek – I am 28. I’m Gen Y. I would not respect LW if I knew her.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Wow — without even knowing what her job is? That seems really unwarranted, and kind of harmful to the credibility of your argument here.

      2. EngineerGirl*

        You wouldn’t respect her? That’s crazy. And you are only judging her on one aspect of her job (access to social media). Do you really believe that is the **only** way to bring value to a company? The LW could be an amazing copy editor, or an amazing accountant, or an amazing logistics coordinator. There are lots of ways to bring value to a company.

    5. N*

      I love that a 28 year old thinks she can state with outraged authority and scorn for others that multiple industries are “rife with nepotism and are often almost impossible to enter” when she clearly hasn’t had enough life experience to know whether that’s true or not. (Hint: it’s not true. It’s often true at magazines but not PR and journalism.) Check the outrage and consider that you’re not the font of all wisdom on this.

      – former journalist now in PR

  29. AnonEMoose*

    My Facebook profile is strictly personal. I don’t mention work, I don’t list where I work, I haven’t “liked” my employer’s page, and I don’t friend coworkers. Partly because I’m a curmudgeon who believes in boundaries between work and life, and partly because I work in education, and I don’t want students or faculty trying to “friend” me.

    They don’t need the details of my (non-mainstream, non-Christian) religion, they don’t need to know my political leanings, and they don’t need to know that I’m childfree, a gamer, etc., etc. (And unless you actually do have me friended on Facebook, you won’t see any of that stuff, either.)

    I don’t even accept requests from students on LinkedIn, because I want to keep my connections to people I actually know and preferably have actually worked with in some capacity. So there is some overlap between Facebook and LinkedIn, for example, because I have worked with friends on volunteer things and thus would feel comfortable speaking to some of their skills, general reliability, etc. in a professional capacity.

    I would not be at all pleased by being “asked” (read “told”) to promote stuff for work on my personal Facebook account. I’d probably use one of the above-listed reasons suggested by others…and start quietly looking for another job. And you can bet I’d mention any pressure to use my personal network for this in an exit interview.

    1. Rana*

      Agreed. It’s the equivalent of asking a person to hand out business fliers at family weddings: not cool.

  30. Elle*

    Apparently, I feel very strongly about this!

    I have probably bought $500 of makeup this year so far. I can’t trust women’s magazines to tell me the truth about makeup due to (1) advertising relationships/Photoshop and (2) refusal to show make up on dark skin or any diversity, really.

    Social media is my savior. I buy ALL of my makeup through social media. I check reviews and I always look at swatches (on dark skin!) Blogging and social media is a boon to your company because it allows you to show the diversity that your magazine will refuse to show in print.

    No one is asking you to lie. A photo of make up or clothes on everyday women’s bodies or blush on a unretouched face will do more to sell to me than fake gushy praise. Honestly, as a customer, I would rather they fired you and hired someone else willing to engage with social media and who appreciates my money and my business.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      They aren’t going to post anything to social media that they wouldn’t put in the glossy. Thinking they will is… naive.

    2. Sandrine*

      Just because YOU use social media that way doesn’t mean everyone does.

      You don’t seem to realize how BADLY you come across here.

  31. JPT*

    “If you’re a social media person, you kind of have to be ‘bought in’ to your job.”

    Not necessarily. You may just be running your company’s public feeds under the name of the organization/office/whatever, not as an individual. If you’re a public figure, sure, but typically not the case. Asking individuals to bug their friends is not only annoying but lazy, because it’s basically to beg for “likes” and “follows” to an untargeted group of individuals who will just do it because they’re told to, not because they want to actually interact with your organization or brand or even care about it. It’s terrible marketing (or a lack of marketing altogether).

    1. Erica*

      I didn’t see any indication that the OP was being asked to beg for “likes” or “follows.” That’s horrible social media marketing whether you’re talking to your friends/family or a more targeted audience.

      And yes, I do run my organization’s public feeds under their name, not my own. I interact with over 7M+ every day, and not a single person outside the company knows who I am. But in order to effectively target, understand and create campaigns – I have to be bought in to what we do, understand the audience’s motivation and be able to align the two. I’m bought in – despite not being my company’s target audience at all.

  32. LA*

    This is an interesting conundrum that I’ve faced far too often in my business life. I used to work in PR for a B2B company. Obviously, I shared our product launches and anything I thought would merit more eyeballs seeing it on my own personal accounts, but we would always write social posts for our sales guys to put on groups on LinkedIn. I mean, we did this for every single piece of content we had – here’s an ebook and here’s a post that doesn’t look too salesy, go post it on that group, kind of stuff – and it was absolutely insane the amount of time we wasted because there were zero sales people who would take us up on the offer for the same reasons that the OP is stating. The company is floundering and I truly would bet money on the fact that all of the sales people abhor the use of social media for business.

    So I’d add a caveat to AAM’s answer. If you work in PR or social media you’re kind of expected to do this, but if you work in sales and someone is providing you a way to make more money and double your commissions if you just TRY it out then you should do it as well. I can see why an IT person or an accountant wouldn’t find value in this, but if your customers are sitting on the other end of that social feed, why wouldn’t you post something?

  33. Piper*

    Let me preface this by saying, I work in the digital marketing/e-commerce realm..

    I think it’s silly to force any employee to use their social media profiles for the company’s benefit. What if my network isn’t the least bit interested in what my company makes (i.e., I work for a chocolate teapot company and 90% of my network is allergic to chocolate)? This is especially true in Facebook, where things are generally much more locked down and private (or at least they can be). A company may have 5 people in my Facebook network who even care about their teapot and with Facebook’s newsfeed algorithms, those people might not even see my post anyway.

    This is a silly and untargeted method of using social media and there are much, much better ways to go about this kind of thing other than expecting employees to promote what may just be spam into their personal newsfeeds.

    1. JPT*

      Absolutely agree… I was contacted once by someone at a nonprofit a relative works for who mentioned me as someone who does social media for an organization (she was thinking maybe that person would want to discuss ideas with me, find out what we do, etc.). As it turns out, this person had no interest in talking to me but just wanted access to me so they could ask me to spam my Facebook friends (knowing where I work and wanting access to my connections). She sent me a clearly copy and pasted e-mail with instructions and a SCRIPT for sending instant messages to my friends on Facebook, an image to change my profile picture to (with a bunch of text on it, and completely illegible as a profile pic) and explaining their goal to get so many “likes.” I wrote back alerting her that copying and pasting the same thing into a bunch of IMs typically flags you and Facebook eventually blocks you from IMing/posting for awhile; I also mentioned that I have deleted and blocked individuals who started fake conversations with me to try to get me to like something or buy something they’re selling, and that if they want people to use a profile image it needs to be the appropriate size/resolution.

      I never heard back from her, of course! Turns out they have donors who base their giving on how many followers they have on social media and give them “goals.” Social media is a problem because of people who don’t understand it or know how to use it appropriately.

  34. BossLady*

    Question for OP: Is this being asked of your by your manager or someone at your level who is perhaps responsible for social media? If the case is the latter, their boss may want to know that they are trying to inflate their performance in a less-than-aboveboard-manner and I would discuss it with my direct supervisor. (Social Media Managers are often rated on mentions/likes/retweets, flawed and manipulable as those metrics are.)

    I think an early poster’s point about the company needing to make compelling, desirable to share content is absolutely key. If you have to be enticed to share it, you aren’t really doing social media marketing, just advertising over social platforms. Social media is intended to be a “pull” medium, not “push.”

    And if you are in a marketing function and this is coming from your boss, maybe this is an opportunity for you to shine? Research, craft, suggest and implement a more effective approach?

  35. Elizabeth West*

    I wouldn’t do this, but I’m not in social media. My Twitter and Facebook are platforms for my writing, but that’s a separate thing from where I work.

    And now that Alison has posted the link to Erica’s blog, I will never get anything done ever again…. *read read read read* ;)

  36. K.*

    This is exactly how I ended up managing dual Facebook accounts for the better part of two years. I am heavily engaged in social media, at my past two jobs and probably at my next one, but I am also a strong believer that the more public my role is, the more private my very private life needs to be. I may have chosen to be front-facing, but that doesn’t mean my spouse, children, other family, or college friends chose to be, and I believe in insulating them from my public persona (in a field which can attract a ridiculous amount of unhinged hate mail) and vice-versa.

    Sometimes, I think, it’s the only way. Work and family are both two halves of the same whole person but even on Twitter, FB, and Pinterest, it’s necessary sometimes to have boundaries between the two and even the best, most careful use of groups, privacy settings, and filters doesn’t always manage that very well.

  37. Jesicka309*

    Perhaps the OP can come to a compromise by occasionally ‘sharing’ posts from the company’s website, but only sharing posts that she is interested in. Eg. A cool post about healthy eating, or a new tv ad that looks funny, or a special deal on shakes that you can get by buying the mag. Not every post, but selectively choosing a couple. I worked for a TV company that encouraged us to do that , and it was good to share posts about shows we enjoyed ourselves, and I avoided sharing posts I didn’t want to be associated with (like two and a half men ick).

  38. ITPuffNStuff*

    I don’t agree that the “lines are blurred” is an acceptable justification for this expectation from an employer. I seriously doubt the employer would accept the same justification for something that didn’t benefit the employer directly. For example, if an employee wanted to work from home, he or she could present the argument that the blurred lines between personal and professional roles make this a reasonable expectation. The reality is that the employer would only accept the “lines are blurred” argument when it worked in their favor.

    1. ITPuffNStuff*

      PS — another item to consider here is that the employer is trying to pressure their employees into giving them advertising — a service that is normally paid for — for free. It’s certainly not the first time (or the last) that companies try to externalize their costs of doing business (in this case, their advertising costs) to employees. One possible reply to such a request would be “Thank you for asking, and yes my blog does accept advertising. My fee is $xx.xx. Would you prefer to pay via cash, or check?”

  39. ECH*

    Due to my position, I am well-known in my community, but I keep my (rare) FB posts to things about myself and periodically positive things about my family, colleagues and personal activities. Once in a great while I share a link to my job-related writing, but only if it’s something that meant a lot to me.

    It is not that I am not proud of my product. I am extremely proud of the work I do and have been known to end friendships with people who criticize it. I just get tired of FB posts by people who constantly bombard me with opportunities to purchase what they are selling, and I don’t want to do the same to my friends.

  40. CW82*

    Hi everyone,

    Sorry I’m a few days late to this conversation, but I think it’s important to add that the FTC has transparency requirements for any endorsements, which includes promoting your clients and their products via a personal social media channel. Specifically, if you have any business relationship with that company, you need to disclose that in the same post where you promote them. You can see the FTC full regs here:


    And a Q&A about the rules, which discusses them in plainer language, here:


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