Your social media identity—all the photos, videos and words about you that have been posted online by you or your friends, family and co-workers—tells people a lot about you. Your social media identity can also have a big impact on your career and professional reputation, now and in the future.
According to a survey from CareerBuilder, 43% of employers are using social media as a source of information about job candidates, and more than half of these employers are finding things that cause them to not hire the candidate.
By maintaining an effective social media identity, you will ensure that you make a positive impression on employers and other work-related contacts when they look you up online.
Know your online networking options
Networking online allows you to reach out to people you’d likely never meet through traditional networking methods as well as to maintain contact with people you already know. Some of the most popular online networking options include:
- social networking websites—primarily used for connecting with friends but can also be used to let your contacts know you’re looking for work
- professional networking websites—used to outline your background, skills and experience and to add people you know to your network
- video and photo sharing websites—can be used to showcase your work or stay in touch with contacts
- blogs—can be used to share your thoughts on a particular subject, demonstrate knowledge or expertise or as a tool for individual branding
- forums and online communities hosted by professional associations, alumni associations, unions, subject matter experts, thought leaders and others—used to talk to larger groups and discover more about different organizations.
Manage your social media habits
If you use social media tools wisely, you can manage and control your social media identity and increase your professional visibility. The following suggestions can help:
- Be discreet with the words and images you share online about yourself and others. Assume that the whole world can and will read what you post online.
- Choose your social media friends with care. The information they share about you could potentially damage your reputation.
- Be careful when becoming involved in activities, organizations and online groups. You may be associated with that event or organization when you are searched online.
- Use the privacy settings on each of your social networking websites to control what others can learn about you. You can decide who can access your profile and which parts of your profile they can see.
- Develop boundaries between your work and your personal life. Create a different profile for your professional network sites than for social network sites intended for friends and family.
- Proofread the information on your profile or ask a trusted friend or family member to do so.
- Follow the same etiquette for social media networking that you would when networking face to face.
- Maintain your social media identity by regularly setting aside time to update your profile and make it consistent with your resumé. All of your social media sites should have the same information about you.
Deal with negative posts
You should regularly search your name and nicknames online so you know what potential employers will see. If you're unhappy with what turns up, try these suggestions:
- Ask friends or family who post inappropriate photos or information about you to change their privacy settings or remove those items from their posted comments and conversations.
- Untag yourself in inappropriate photos on others’ profiles.
- Be more active in social media in order to counteract negative information with positive information about yourself. The suggestions in the next section can help you boost the positive features of your identity.
- As a last resort, contact an online identity management company to help you handle your online identity. Use a search engine to find one.
Project a positive social media identity
When you increase your positive presence in social media, you ensure negative or unprofessional information about you gets a lower ranking in search engine results. Try these suggestions:
- Link from your social media profiles to the web pages of groups, teams or projects you’re involved in and want to draw attention to.
- Use social media websites to promote projects related to your work or volunteer activities. If appropriate, include your name in the information. Be careful to follow each site’s rules regarding self-promotion.
- Avoid linking or referring to any negative or unprofessional information.
Use blogs and online communities to create positive information about you that ranks above any negative information in search engine results. When following and commenting on professional and volunteer related sites, follow these suggestions:
- Check out a blog or online community for several days to develop a feel for content, tone and audience before posting your own comments. When you do respond, your comment will be more effective.
- Steer clear of blogs and online communities about sensitive topics, such as politics and religion.
Manage your social media identity for future success
Your social media identity can affect your reputation and career. By effectively managing your online presence, you can ensure your social media activities have a positive impact and set you up for future success.