I was recently interviewed about social media by @alecmiske, a reporter from the Algonquin Times (Algonquin College’s student newspaper). The conversation was mainly focused on how the College uses social media to connect with its audiences and stakeholders. As the conversation progressed, I began chatting about the need for all of us (including students) to actively manage our online reputations: a notion that is pretty simple, very important, and often neglected.
After speaking with @alecmiske for almost an hour, we both thought that a blog post re: reputation management may be of interest/value, so here it goes…
What is reputation management? I introduce reputation management in the opening hours of the social media course I teach at the college. Here’s the video (Common Craft) I use to provide a quick explanation:
Why should you care?: Two reasons. One – Organizations are desperate for employees who can use social media not only in their personal lives, but also to help deliver on business goals. Regardless of what industry you are getting into (with a few exceptions), experience in the business side of social media will be one of your strongest assets. Two – In a 2010 Jobvite Social Recruiting Survey, 92% of companies who were actively hiring in the next year said that they had used, or planned to use, social media in their employee search. This is a huge number. You can almost guarantee that what you put online will eventually be put “on file” when you are applying for a job. Here lies your great opportunity to present a professional social media presence to help you stand out above the other applicants.
The bad: Employers have cited several different reasons why they didn’t hire an employee based on their social media profile(s), including inappropriate photos and language, references to using drugs and alcohol, and even using poor grammar – including emoticons :( . You can find some great examples of “social media gone wrong” if you Google Cisco Fatty, Favreau Hillary, or Kevin Colvin (pictured right).
The good: Other employers say they have hired employees because they feel that, through social media, the candidate’s profile demonstrated the right personality and fit, supported their professional qualifications, showed creativity and solid communications skills, etc.
In short, your social media presence can make you extremely attractive, or unattractive.
Do you think you are addicted to the outrageous side of social media? What can you do to make your presence employer-safe? Here’s a 12-step program to help “keep it clean.”
1. Never post anything that you would feel uncomfortable discussing in the lunchroom at work. I often go further and say if you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing with your grandmother, spouse, and boss what you have posted online, then you should probably re-think the post.
2. Don’t post confidential information online, regardless of your privacy settings. Privacy settings change often and are misunderstood. Treat all of your accounts as if they were completely public and you shouldn’t run into any of these problems down the road. The old “I thought I had my privacy settings turned on” doesn’t hold up in a job interview.
3. Sanitize. If you have explicit photos of you online, have posted inappropriate content, or are friends with the “wrong crowd,” it’s never too late to start to make it better. Start by removing the offending photos and posts, then let your “friends” know your new approach to social media.
4. Promote the good. Now start posting photos and messages that you DO want the whole world to see. This could be tasteful photos, insightful comments about your industry, reports on local events, or even comments on what you are working on for school or work.
6. Remove postings by others that may get you in trouble. It’s not only the information that you post that could damage your reputation. Watch what people post on your profile and remove or edit as necessary.
7. Be considerate when you are posting things. Don’t set out to try and embarrass your friends. It may be funny now, but it may hurt them (and you) when it comes to career opportunities.
8. Monitor your information. Google your name often, look for new photos, see what people are saying about you. If you know what’s out there you can take action if necessary. You don’t know what you don’t know.
9. Don’t use social media during work hours, unless it’s a part of your job. Granted, this one is more of a “keep your job” than “get a job” tip, but still equally as relevant.
10. Be careful as you mix your personal and professional contacts online. Be sure to pause and think that you have to see these people every day, you may not want to be online friends.
11. Don’t disclose personal information that you are not comfortable having in the public domain. This can include your cell phone number, address, full birth date, etc.
12. Understand and raise your privacy settings. Even tough your security settings are maxed out, always assume your information and photos can be leaked. Security settings have been known to vanish during platform upgrades (Facebook), so check back often.
Final thoughts: Conversations that were private in the past are now public online, and it is up to you to help shape how people perceive you. It’s easy to get carried away trying to look cool or seeking the acceptance of peers, but it is extremely important to profile the professional you, not just the party you. Remember, if you can demonstrate a consistent professional use of social media when you are looking to advance your career, you will be a step ahead of the rest.
Go ahead, Google yourself, I dare you…