In my previous blog, I discussed the importance of staying safe online in terms of identity theft, but have you considered staying safe online in terms of protecting your professional reputation and career prospects?

Recent research by security protection company AVG has revealed that in the UK, 30% of Facebook users aged 18-25 are friends with their boss.

You may think that this is relatively harmless, but have you contemplated the consequences when your boss reads your work related outburst, visible to all in your social network.

The professional and personal use of social networking sites is becoming more and more intertwined, especially as the number of active users of social networking sites continues to increase. Take Twitter for example, in September 2011, the site had 100 million active users, compared to over 500 million people today. UK Twitter usage has even overtaken the numbers buying a daily newspaper.

Twitter is a notoriously difficult social networking platform to distinguish whether it is best for personal or professional use. In fact, Twitter is an effective platform for both, but the key is to have two Twitter accounts, one for tweeting content that you are happy for your boss to read, and the other for more personal tweets aimed at friends and family.

Facebook is another form of social media which can be baffling when your professional reputation is involved, coming hand in hand with a new set of issues to consider. The temptation to add your entire professional network as Facebook friends may seem irresistible as it feels great to have an extensive friends list. However, is this a wise move?

As an alternative to connecting with colleagues on Facebook and providing them with free reign to find out as much as they wish about things that you may prefer to remain private, why not create a LinkedIn profile, designed with the sole purpose of professional networking. This way you can network to your heart’s content without worrying about damaging your career prospects.

However, if you are already in the situation where you are now unable to de-friend your colleagues on Facebook unnoticed, my advice would be to restrict which content they are able to see. This way, you will not cause any offence but your professional reputation will still remain intact.

Surprisingly, according to AVG’s research, 66% of respondents stated that their colleagues were able to see all of their online content with no restrictions.

To summarise, it is important to remember that there are a vast number of social networking sites, all with different pros and cons. If you want to connect with your boss or work colleagues, LinkedIn is the best platform for this, leaving Facebook purely for social use. In addition to this, if you would like to start tweeting, create separate Twitter accounts for personal and private use.

On a final note, don’t underestimate the importance of reviewing your company’s social media policy, as this may restrict what you are legally permitted to post. Abiding by these rules should reduce the chances of costly mistakes!