In an increasingly connected world, nearly every person has become a brand that is partly shaped and influenced by their online profile. Whether you like it or not, your words and actions online can come back to haunt you or they can help you to land that dream job or important client, says Melody Maker.
According to research from Mindflash.com in the US, 45% of employers used social media services such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to screen potential employees while 18% found information in social media sites that facilitated their decision to hire a candidate. Now, a quick Google search can provide a potential employer with a candid CV and set of references for a person it is considering as a potential hire.
The implication is that you should be thinking about your personal brand and how you portray it online, even if you are not a public figure. The content you create and the interactions you have across you social media profiles, blogging platforms, and so on, could play a major role in how employers and other work contacts perceive you. Here are some tips that will help you use this trend to your advantage:
Remember that Google never forgets
There is a fine line between impulsiveness and spontaneity in social media. Think very carefully before you hit the button to post a Tweet or Facebook status that could be controversial. Though that politically incorrect joke may seem funny at the time or that picture of a raucous evening may seem amusing, think very carefully about what it might say to someone you want to do business with.
Be especially mindful of tone – irony and sarcasm don’t always translate well into 140 character tweets. Even if you delete something after you realise posting it was a bad idea, it may replicate itself in other people’s posts and Tweets, living on for Google to unearth every time someone searches for your name.
Behave appropriately in each social context
Social networks – such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – have either evolved into or were designed from the start to address different social needs. Just as appropriate behaviour varies between different real-life settings – for example, a friend’s home, the workplace and a restaurant – there are different social conventions and informal rules for various social networking services.
Your LinkedIn colleagues probably don’t want to see your baby pictures and your Facebook friends may not be interested in the article your read in the Harvard Business Review. Blasting the same message to different audiences across different social networking services, for example using Tweetdeck, is not as effective as tailoring your content to the different platforms.
Understand privacy filters and settings in each service
Services such as Google+ and Facebook allow you to customise the content you present to different audiences so that you can exclude people you don’t know well from content about your social or family life, for example. Though they can be a little fiddly, it’s worth familiarising yourself with them. This will allow you to be a little more spontaneous and open with your friends and family, without worrying about your boss seeing content that isn’t really meant for his or her eyes.
Open up to the world, selectively
Don’t let the fear of doing something damaging to your personal brand put you off from using social services. Social networking can be a great way to build your profile and brand with employers, colleagues and other work contacts. Make your Tweets public as well as selected Facebook content to make yourself searchable and to make yourself look open to engagement. Sure, there are some risks to navigate in the social media space, but there are also plenty of opportunities if you use it wisely.
Melody Maker is a digital strategist at Acceleration Media