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Pause before you post: Social media lessons from business owners who have seen it all

Chef Joanne Chang and CEO Beth Monaghan aren't just looking at what you're posting—they're looking to see if they can trust you to post for them

For Joanne Chang, it’s all about the “Mom Test.” Would your mom be comfortable reading or watching it?

For Beth Monaghan, it’s more specific. Cursing and drunken photos are immediate disqualifiers in her book.

Monaghan, co-founder and CEO of Inkhouse, the Waltham-based PR and content marketing firm, and Chang, the award-winning chef, author, and owner of Flour Bakery and Cafe in Boston and Cambridge, use social media to their company’s’ advantage. But both have cautionary tales for young people entering the job market about what — or what not — to post.

Once every 5 minutes

If current studies are to be believed, millennials check their smartphones more than 150 times a day, or once every five or six minutes. Much of that time is spent on social media.

Companies know they can’t control their employees’ smartphone obsession or what they post to their personal accounts, but there is one thing they can control: whether to hire a person, based on their social media history.

“We, as an agency, look at everyone’s social media postings when we’re considering hiring people,” says Monaghan. “I’m sure we’re not alone in that.”

They’re not. Recent survey results from Career Builder.com and Harris Poll showed that 70 percent of employers nationwide consider social media activity when screening job applicants, and more than half reject a potential hire because of some content they uncovered.

Beth Monaghan (left), CEO of Inkhouse, collaborates with her general manager

So what should these prospective employees keep in mind before they tap “post?”

Set your goals

Monaghan advises soon-to-be professionals to consider their long-term goals and let those intentions serve as a guide for their social media messaging.

“How you want to be seen on social media should be informed by your goals,” she says. “In my own case, I care about creating a more modern workplace; I care about equality for minorities and women and I care about public relations. So those are things I feature on social media.”

Monaghan also says authenticity is important.

“You can’t be somebody on social media and somebody else in the real-world,” she says.

Chang, like Monaghan, uses social media to share behind-the-scenes looks at her business and also feels it’s a good way to represent her values and interests.

Joanne Chang posts the day’s pastries to Instagram

“I take pictures all day long of things that delight me,” she says. “And then when I have a moment – usually about once a day – I pick one of the pictures and post what I love about it. It becomes representative of the brand.”

She doesn’t have specific disqualifiers like Monaghan, but instead relies more on her gut — and the “Mom Test.” Her mom worked at Flour briefly in its early days and Chang valued her opinions on what worked and what didn’t. She approaches social media similarly. Would mom approve? If not, don’t post.

A philosophy to post by

A challenging but necessary component of a company’s social media outreach is designating employees to also post for the business.

“We have a few people in the company who post for us,” says Chang. “I think they have the same philosophy idea – it’s a great way to send a message about something you are excited about.”

A Flour employee assists a customer during the morning rush

Some companies have more strict policies on who can post content and what they can say.

“We encourage our employees to tweet about Inkhouse and we have a system for it,” says Monaghan. “However, if you’re at a management level or above at a company, you are an official spokesperson for your company and we have a policy about what you can and cannot say on social media.”

Awkward moments are teaching moments

Still, making sure the right messages go out, either on the corporate social media sites or individual accounts, takes some level of monitoring.

Chang recalled one incident involving an employee who complained about her boss in a pretty detailed manner on social media. “I pulled that person aside and let her know that I had read her posts, and did she want to talk to me about how we could work through this.”

Monaghan, too, has had some awkward moments as a result of an employee’s post.

“The only time I’ve asked people to take something down was when they have posted something that was potentially offensive to other people here or our clients,” she says.

Employees’ personal accounts don’t necessarily have to be in line with the brand they work for or want to work for, but they should remember that what’s public is public.

There’s also another way to approach social media. if you have to ask yourself, “Should I really post this?” then you probably already know the answer.

This content was produced by Boston Globe Media's BG BrandLab in collaboration with the advertiser. The news and editorial departments of The Boston Globe had no role in its production or display.