Believe it or not, you can use social media to build your online reputation. Your social networking profile will usually be near the top of the results page if someone - for instance, a potential employer - searches your name online. Social media is likely here to stay, so you might as well use it to enhance your online reputation.
So how can you properly use social media to enhance your presence online? Here are some tips I've collected both from personal experience and from the research:
Think twice before clicking "Send"
Sarcasm usually doesn't translate well online. A joke which may seem funny to you or your friends can be taken out of context. Before posting content online, take a second to think about how it can be interpreted. If there's any chance that a potential employer may misinterpret what you mean, consider re-wording your message or not sending it at all.
Take extra care with pictures
A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words. If you're thinking of posting a silly picture that your friends might find funny, you might want to give that a second thought. Once a picture is posted online, it pretty much stays public. Someone can save it and share it with others before you can delete it.
Build your brand by communicating your expertise
A lot of people use blogs or their status updates to let everyone know about their daily adventures and frustrations. While there's nothing wrong with wanting to express yourself, if your blog or profile appears on Google when someone searches your name, having a story there about your spring break misadventures may not be the best idea.
Consider using your blog to write about causes that you care for instead. If you have a certain expertise, blog about that subject and show potential employers what you know about it.
Also, try not to talk about work through your status updates or blog posts. For one, you don't want to inadvertently share confidential information online. Also, social media is not the right channel for venting about your frustrations; talking to your boss in person is likely a more professional way of addressing workplace issues.
Check your friends' list
Who you're following or who you're friends with online can tell as much about you as what you write in your profile. Similarly, if you've joined groups or affiliations online, make sure that what they accurately represent your views.
Open a LinkedIn account
Think of LinkedIn as the professional's equivalent of Facebook. A lot of employers now use this site to find out more about potential employees. In addition to letting everyone know about your professional experience, you can use LinkedIn to ask for recommendations from former bosses or colleagues. If there's one social networking profile that you'd want potential employers to see, this is it. LinkedIn is free to use, so consider opening an account before you apply for a job.
Fill out your profile thoughtfully and accurately
When filling out your profile in any of the social networking sites, take an extra second to think about what you write. A well-written profile should succinctly communicate what you're passionate about. Think of it as a way to build your brand online. It's also a good idea to include your contact information, links to your blog/LinkedIn profile, etc.
If you have a nicely-written profile, you shouldn't be afraid of placing it public. Other things you should consider placing public (provided you've taken the time to fill them accurately) are your education & work information, professional affiliations (which may help in networking), and contact information.
If you think that these tips would be challenging, you should set your privacy settings as high as possible. And because social networking privacy is still evolving, make sure you check your settings occasionally to ensure that any content that you don't want to share are not accidentally made public. But even if your privacy settings are high enough, be cognizant of the fact that your friends can easily grab your content (for instance, by taking a screenshot) and place it elsewhere.
Maintaining a professional image online through social media can mean the difference between almost getting that dream job and getting it. Take the time to review your profiles on various social networking sites and to search for yourself online to make sure that you're not giving employers the wrong message.
Beyond the Blog
- Check out Kevin's other blog posts from their Social Media Series.