In a world where work is never “off” and going unplugged feels like a luxury, it’s only natural that the lines between professional and informal communication become blurred. After all, if you’re already answering emails on the beach, it’s not a far stretch to send an inquiry to a coworker via Facebook Messenger.
Before sending out that message though, ask yourself – is this appropriate? Why are you choosing this channel of communication?
Arguments can be made both ways on the topic, and none of them are right or wrong – you just need to consider what makes the most sense for your particular situation.
“For me personally, Facebook Messenger is strictly for personal use and entirely separate from work,” says Sarah K. Stewart, Operations Coordinator at Dale Carnegie of Arizona. “While I love my job, I don’t want to receive work-related messages when I’m not at the office or after hours. This particular ‘boundary’ helps me maintain a healthy work-life balance.”
For some, the ability to connect about work in a friendly, low-commitment environment like social media has its perks. Corey Perlman, keynote speaker on social media and digital marketing, and owner of marketing agency Impact Social Media, feels that Facebook is a great channel for quick check-ins and friendly chats, but recommends that serious conversations be held in a more professional setting – like face-to-face or over the phone.
Tom Mangan of Dale Carnegie Pittsburgh agrees. He doesn’t mind if a colleague uses Facebook to take the morning coffee order, but finds the platform inappropriate for business matters. “I don’t want to have work content mixed in with pictures of my dogs or other nonsense,” he says, noting that “other forms of communication make it easier to search for content, which can be beneficial down the road.”
The ease of messaging apps like Facebook can’t be denied, however. Almost every email inbox is constantly overflowing these days, so when you need a quick response to a short question, instant messaging is undoubtedly useful. Luckily, there are alternatives to social media. Services like Slack provide a space for the exchange of brief messages, while remaining separate from social media and maintaining a log of exchanges.
So as you lay there on the beach debating the use of Facebook Messenger, consider these questions:
If you do decide that social media is the best medium for your message, be sure to temper your expectations on the speed and depth of response. If your question is sent during work hours, the recipient may or may not be actively monitoring it; if it’s after hours, he or she may prefer not to answer until the next work day.
Your decision is also going to be impacted by the type of work that you do, and the overall culture of your organization.
“It’s key to find the methods of communication that works best for our clients and colleagues,” says Perlman, noting that as his company is based on social media, Facebook Messenger is an excellent communication tool.
We also recommend that you refer to your company’s policy on social media, as well as HR communication guidelines, as they may provide concrete answers to the question.