Social media and professionalism are often thought to be like oil and water: they just don’t mix. I disagree (well, not about the oil/water part, because those actually don’t mix).

In fact, there are several benefits to letting your coworkers into the happenings of your life outside of work. It leads to more real connections, a better work environment and an opportunity to build a stronger network.

Related: Social media doesn’t cost people jobs. People cost people jobs

Work Better Together

You’ll make a better team if you know more about each other. Learning about your coworkers hobbies (and letting them in on yours) can even be a an opportunity to learn about each other’s strong skills. Beyond that, it opens the door for more natural conversation at work.

At a past job, I asked a coworker about a restaurant she posted about the weekend before. We started a casual conversation and ended becoming close coworkers and friends (even today). Learning about each other’s similarities makes working together a lot easier and more fun.

Similarly, maybe your coworker has a passionate view that they often share on social media. Even if you don’t share that view, you’ll know which topics to avoid when engaging in conversation. The less friction in a professional relationship, the best.

Create a Positive Culture

A company’s culture is completely determined by those who work for that company. A strong culture leads to an environment that employees are excited to be a part of and makes them look forward to coming to work.

Building real relationships with your coworkers will make a huge impact on company culture. What is a bigger motivator to come into work than knowing you’ll see your friends?

Plus, working with people you like and respect has a way of making you more accountable. After all, you want your friends to respect your work ethic and know they can rely on you.

Build a (Less Conventional) Network

I recently got offered a freelance project by a former coworker of mine. I left the company five years ago, and she left a couple of years later. While I don’t see her anymore, we are still friendly on Instagram and up-to-date on each other’s lives.

She is now an editor for an online publication, and when she needed a freelancer for a side gig, I was fresh in her mind and she already knew what I was doing with my career these days. That’s an opportunity I would not have gotten without our connection on Instagram!

It can always benefit you to keep up-to-date with coworkers who you respected and enjoyed working with in the past.

Get Creative with Your Brand

A couple of years ago, I put “freelance writer” in the bio of my Instagram profile. I wasn’t sure anything would come from it, but about six months later, I had an entrepreneur reach out to me about editing an extensive eBook. I worked with him for a couple of months and still have that connection today. I used Instagram, a social channel not built for professional networking, to help define my brand–and it worked.

Whether you know it or not, your social profiles define your brand in many ways. Of course, when you’re putting together your LinkedIn profile, you likely think about your brand, or how you want other professionals to view you. With Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, that brand really expands.

Outside of LinkedIn, your other channels don’t need to be “professional.” By that, I mean you don’t need to post only work-related photos or topics. But, if your coworkers are following you, always be thoughtful about what you post on your social channels. Make sure everything speaks to who you are and how you want to be perceived.

When you think about the access social media has given our bosses, potential bosses, and coworkers to our inside lives it can be, well…a little awkward. True, social media has made our private lives less than private and has left our formerly “public” lives completely exposed. However, in my opinion, the benefits of following your coworkers on social media far outweigh the challenges.

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