“There is no advertisement as powerful as a positive reputation traveling fast.”
Nasir asks: I’ve heard that employers are checking social media more and more, to find out how professional their people really are. Should I just get rid of my Facebook profile so I don’t have to worry about my boss snooping on me?
Joel answers: That’s an option, of course, but there’s no need to stay off social media. In fact, 57% of recruiters are less likely to interview candidates who don’t have an online presence, a CareerBuilder survey found. The key is to increase your visibility wisely. Look at Facebook and other social media sites as networking tools. When that guides every choice you make on social media, you won’t have much to worry about.
Over half of employers use social media to check the profiles of their current employees, too, according to CareerBuilder, a trend that’s been growing for years. This means you need to stay vigilant regardless of your employment status!
Here are some important “dos” and “don’ts” for using social media.
Do create a separate professional account.
Your professional contacts probably won’t want to see all those videos of your new puppy. Posting a tasteful photo from your personal life here and there can humanize you, but if you go beyond that, it’s best to create a separate profile for professional use. Set up a professional Facebook account to keep your business contacts in the loop about the things they’ll really care about. Or, use your Instagram account to share family photos and personal updates—setting it so only approved followers can see them—and use Facebook for professional networking.
Do set your privacy settings accordingly.
With Facebook and many other platforms, you can choose how much the public sees of your profile. If you’re using one Facebook profile for both personal and professional networking, select privacy settings that allow only certain people to see those photos of you on vacation. If you’re setting up a separate professional account, give the public full access to your information to encourage them to “friend” or “follow” you. Similarly, consider whether you want your boss to see your LinkedIn activity. If you’re in the market for a new job, you may not want your boss to see your flurry of activity. Change your privacy settings so there’s no need to worry.
Do review your existing content.
Weed through your old photos and remove anything too racy or inappropriate on social media. Even if it’s on your personal profile, don’t take the chance that colleagues or bosses won’t see it. (What if that friend from college is your coworker one day?) Google yourself to find out what comes up—like, for instance, an old profile on a platform you no longer use, or that blog of love poetry you started as a teenager, which you could simply delete.
Do select your friends wisely.
The last thing you need after working hard to develop a professional Facebook profile is to have a goofball post something offensive on your wall. Even if you delete it, chances are someone else has seen it and the damage is done.
Do review others’ posts before they go live.
If an unprofessional post shows up, you don’t want it to hover there for weeks until you log in, so it’s the first thing any new contact sees when visiting your profile. Change your settings so you’re required to approve all posts that others make on your timeline before they go up. You can also change your settings so you’re the only one who can post on your timeline. Likewise, set your notifications so you’ll receive an email or phone alert right away if anyone tags you. Then untag yourself if you’d rather not have your contacts see the photo or post.
Do show personality.
Being professional doesn’t mean hiding your great sense of humor or witty personality—just don’t use them to make crude jokes. Branding yourself well means being authentic.
Don’t post things you’d be embarrassed about later.
Remember that once you post something on the Internet, it can never truly be removed. Before you post something, think, “Would I be embarrassed if my employer saw this? Would it potentially detract from my chance of getting hired or forming a relationship with a new client?” The same holds true for words as well as photos. Even if they’re on your personal profile, always err on the side of caution.
You don’t need to always be singing about sunshine and butterflies, but don’t use Facebook as a place to vent about work. Even if no single comment is over the top, a pattern of work negativity won’t make you seem like someone others want to be around—and it certainly won’t present you as confident and capable.
Don’t get into Twitter feuds or feed into trolling.
These time traps can make you look like you have major anger management issues, and they’re rarely productive. It’s fine to have a lively debate, but keep it courteous.
Don’t post during work hours.
Maybe you’ve kept it professional, posting quality content that colleagues can benefit from. But if you’ve done it during work hours, your boss or HR department might see that time stamp. Post only during lunchtime, breaks, or off-work hours so you’re not wasting time on social media at work.
Don’t go overboard with advertising.
Make your posts and status updates interesting. One of the easiest ways to lose professional “friends” on Facebook is to abuse your status updates by spamming them with advertising. As an example, instead of telling everyone you’re the best realtor in the region, give daily tips on selling a home. Use your Facebook profile to establish yourself as an expert in your field, and your followers will naturally seek you out when they have a need for your product or services.
Don’t stay on too long.
Set a time limit for social media. It may help to go on at a particular time every day, for ten minutes or so. That way, it won’t become a time suck.
Remember these pointers, and social media will serve as an important networking tool. Instead of compromising employment opportunities, it may bring you closer to your dream job or draw in clientele. And if your employer is checking out your social media habits, he’ll be nothing but impressed.
You want social media to help your career, not harm it. If perception management (and your social media image) is important to you, hire leadership coach Joel Garfinkle.