Making Your Social Media Work-Friendly: A 5 Step Approach
By Ashley Kawakami
Many of us can hardly remember the days when social media wasn’t a part of our daily lives. We’ve grown up with it, evolving from MySpace Top 8 to Facebook friends to the photo world of Instagram and Snapchat, becoming used to documenting every detail imaginable.
But beyond using it to announce where we decided to go to college, or to write open letters to the jerk driving badly on the freeway, social media connects people; it’s an incredibly powerful tool for business and individual branding. But in our young and inexperienced hands, it can turn ugly. For many young people going through the process of applying to colleges or a job, it can—when not used carefully—cause a huge unforeseen downfall. Many of us have had social media since middle school, which were undeniably dark times. In order to make sure those days don’t come back to haunt us, there are a few useful steps to ensure that your personal online presence is as positive a showcase of who you now are as it can be.
1. STALK YOURSELF
This isn’t about being egomaniacal…just a little maniacal. Don’t limit yourself to a single platform: review all content from all your social media platforms. Look through old tweets, Facebook posts, photos and profile information and make it safe to share with your grandparents. The things on your social media should be a reflection of the image you want future employers to have of you.
If something falls in the category of questionable, it should probably be taken down. Roxanne Hori of Bloomberg suggests that you “ask a good friend to take a look at your tweets and Facebook page through the lens of a recruiter or hiring manager.” Getting a second opinion about your social media content can help ensure that your online presence portrays your best side.
2. UPDATE ALL YOUR SETTINGS
If you’re a seasoned Facebook user, go through and change your privacy settings. Facebook allows you to group people together (coworkers, peers, family, friends, etc.) and lets you block certain groups of people from seeing certain things. This allows you to maintain levels of privacy, letting you share your vacation photos with family and friends but not your boss.
However, use this with caution: just because a person has been blocked from seeing a post doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t see it. This isn’t a fail-safe, but a good precaution to ensure that your posts stay private to select people. It also means you can maintain a professional presence online but keep your friends and family informed on the more personal stuff.
3. YOUR POSTS SHOULD BE RATED PG-13
There’s nothing wrong with posting pictures from your vacation or sharing with your friends what you did last weekend. It’s just a good precautionary practice (and not too difficult) to tone things down and make them acceptable for a business environment. It’s to be expected that you have a life outside of your job. But making sure that the image you represent there, and the one that comes across in social media, is at least in the same ballpark is one key to success. It’s difficult to get a fix on what might offend someone who could hold a key to your future work life. Briana Bane, a freshman at New York University, says, “I try my best to keep my Facebook profile family-oriented, which means to me, refraining from swearing, posting uncomfortable photos, and never writing anything too harsh or opinionated.”
Think about the message that your post or picture sends: Does it send a positive image to the business world, or is there something left to be desired? Your photos on social media should of course be of you and your friends on your annual road trip; the question is, how much will that feed suffer if it doesn’t include the one shot with all those red Solo cups?
4. KEEP TABS ON YOUR TAGS
You might do everything in your power to keep your social media clean, but sometimes your friends don’t. The things that they tag you in on Facebook can show up on your timeline to all your friends and on platforms such as Instagram people can see the photos you’ve been tagged in. Go through all the things you’ve been tagged in on different platforms and, if necessary, either untag yourself or change the settings so it doesn’t show up on your pages.
Some platforms allow you to view your profile as someone else and lets you see what other people see when they look at your page. Take advantage of this and see what people can and can’t see and adjust accordingly.
5. GET ON LINKEDIN
Social media can be an ally for the young, job-hunting professional and using it to its potential can be a huge asset. And LinkedIn, in particular allows for professionals to connect with other people in the same industry and to showcase their work. In Bane’s experience, “LinkedIn is a terrific way of showing employers not only your past work experience, but your relationships with past coworkers as well.”
LinkedIn is a site that allows for employers to gain a window into who you are as a person. As Bloomberg’s Hori says, “many employers I speak with actively use LinkedIn to source talent and to check out people before they interview them.” Keep your LinkedIn updated and make it an example of the strength of your resume.
And always have this in mind: In this era of social media, selfies and viral videos, keeping a handle on your social media is critical as you begin your career. Long gone are the days where an in-person interview is the first time an employer will “meet” you. Your digital presence is now your first impression. Make sure it’s a good one.