Monthly Archives: August 2010

Top Tips for a Positive Social Media Footprint

The advent of Social Media has seen more and more of us expose our personal lives online.  From photos on Facebook and videos on YouTube, to updates on Twitter and Foursquare check-ins, our personal lives are very much in the public domain – but have you ever stopped to consider the effects of your social footprint during the recruitment process?

Whilst this practice is frowned upon (indeed, countries such as Germany are drafting law to make this illegal), as many as 50% of employers are vetting your Social Media profiles during the selection process.

But this need not be a daunting worry that stops you from enjoying Social Media – after all, we’re all adults and all of us have the right to enjoy separate professional and a personal lives.  But to ensure you manage your online presence effectively, here are some tips to ensure that when you’re looking for a job, you leave a professional social footprint.

Facebook

This is one of the sites that candidates ask us about the most, but also one of the easiest to manage.  Should you refrain from posting fun pictures of your holiday with friends?  No.  Should you refrain from posting jovial status updates laden with expletives?  Not necessarily.

i)    Go into Account Settings > Privacy Settings and ensure that all of your privacy settings are set to ‘Friends Only’.  Many people tend to leave everything publicly visible, which is the default privacy setting in many cases.  By ensuring everything is set to ‘Friends Only’, this means people who are not your friends (prospective employers, for example) will not be able to view any of your Facebook content.
ii)    Be careful who you become friends with.  It sounds obvious, but many people are frivolous when it comes to accepting new online friends.  You may get on well with friendly Lynsey in accounts, but she may very well be Facebook friends with your line manager.  If you write on Lynsey’s wall that you’re fed up with your job and have an interview on Monday, your boss will be able to see this written on Lynsey’s wall.  Be sure to keep conversations pertaining work confined to private messages and email.

Twitter

With so many people using Twitter for networking purposes, keeping your tweets set to ‘private’ can seem a pointless exercise.  Ensure that you’re aware of the following and you’ll have your Twitter footprint covered during the job seeking process.

i)    Presume that everything you write on Twitter is visible to anyone.  Which, in fact, it often is.  Twitter is very highly ranked by Google and so Google searches for your name will often pull up your Twitter profile – and recent tweets – on the first page.  If the first thing a prospective employer sees when they Google you is a tweet containing a derogatory comment, the chances are that they won’t be impressed.
ii)    When having a conversation with someone else on Twitter, be aware that @replies can be visible too!  Similar to Facebook, if you follow your friend at work, and your boss also follows both of you, an @reply between you and your friend will also be visible to your boss.  If you do want to discuss anything that could be seen as contentious, the best thing to do is say it through a direct message – or not at all!
iii)    Similarly, if you have a handful of interviews with different companies, remember that many businesses employ Social Media monitoring tools.  A tweet saying that you have had an interview with Brand X but are hoping for more luck with tomorrow’s interview at Brand Y could easily end up in front of a manager at Brand X.  Tweets like this have resulted in candidates having an offer retracted due to their lack of tact.  Ensure that you keep your personal thoughts just that – personal!

YouTube

Publishing video content has become as easy as, well, sticking a video on YouTube!  More and more of us are uploading content to YouTube, whether it’s a hilarious video of your friend after a few too many work drinks, footage of a hobby such as motor racing or simply a clip of you doing some impressions, your content is published and live on the Internet.

If you’re looking for a new role, it may prove worthwhile to review your current crop of content and see which ones do – and don’t – convey a professional appearance:

•    Videos of you delivering a knockout presentation at work = great!
•    Videos of you simultaneously drinking 6 shots of tequila in Spain = bad.

Again, privacy settings can quickly and easily be implemented.  Common sense should prevail.

Blogs

Gone are the days when mass publication was the sole preserve of impoverished writers drinking coffee and smoking furiously!  The Internet has allowed all of us to publish whatever we want – and blogs have experienced an almost meteoric rise in popularity.

Whether you blog about professional issues, hobbies or politics, your name is instantly connected to the blog your write – unless, of course, your write under a pseudonym!  We’ve seen many instances of people leaving a small disclaimer on their blog, for example, “the views expressed herein are my own and not those of my employer.”  However, if a prospective employer is rooting around and sees your blog on radical liberal politics, this may influence their views on you, regardless of the legality of making such a decision.

If you write a blog that you wouldn’t be comfortable showing to a prospective employer, make sure that you apply appropriate privacy settings during the recruitment process.

LinkedIn

‘LinkedIn’ we hear you cry?  Surely that’s a professional site that can’t convey a negative impression, right? Wrong.  Although LinkedIn does not include many details of your personal life, it does broadcast your professional life – and a bad, out-of-date profile can be just as off-putting as a negative personal site.

Just as you prepare a CV before looking for a new job, you should also ensure that your LinkedIn profile is up to scratch.  Ensure that you highlight achievements in each of your roles; ask for recommendations from current members of staff; treat your LinkedIn profile like a digital CV – after all, it’s one Social Media channel that prospective employers are justified in looking at when considering your suitability for their position.

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These steps should ensure that, when looking for a new job, your personal Social Media presence remains discreet, whilst your professional presence is enhanced.  The underlying thing to remember is ‘use common sense’.  You may be worrying about nothing, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.  Here’s a final few points to bear in mind:

i)    Put yourself in the employers shoes – if you were hiring someone and saw this, what would I think?  If it doesn’t convey a professional opinion to you, the chances are that it won’t convey one to the interviewer either.
ii)    Think before you post anything anywhere!  This really is an effective failsafe.  If you think that what you are about to post would not sit well with a prospective employer – don’t post it!
iii)    Many of us open our hearts to friends through Social Media channels.  If you want to have a frank discussion about your employment situation or prospective jobs, the most advisable course of action is to do so through private messages or emails.

Lastly – continue having fun!  The recommendations made in this document aren’t designed to stop you using Social Media in an enjoyable way – they are intended to ensure that your personal activity is managed professionally.  Don’t be afraid to use Social Media – just ensure that employers only have access to professional social footprints.

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Facebook Places – Death Knell for Foursquare?

Facebook has launched Facebook Places, the social network’s first major foray into location-based services.  Clearly a direct challenge to the more established (and rapidly growing) Foursquare, will this latest service take off, backed by the network’s global clout, or has Facebook arrived too late on the location-based services (LBS) scene?

On the face of it, Facebook has a ready-made success story.  Having spoken to colleagues, friends and Social Media pals, all of us have far more friends / connections / contacts on Facebook than Foursquare.  In my own case, this is a ratio of about 20:1 in Facebook’s favour, meaning a Facebook check-in service would be much more informative in terms of seeing where certain friends are hanging out.

However, one of the potential pitfalls for Facebook could well be an increase in ‘virtual litter’.  I’m sure that all of us have a few Twitter friends who insist upon checking in at every possible location in the vicinity – dry cleaners, doctors, supermarket, corner shop, pub, off licence – and automatically feeding these check-ins through Twitter.  Subsequently, our Twitter streams are packed full of ‘I’m at so-and-so’ updates – something which, if done frequently, is proven to annoy followers.

Another possible bone of contention concerns issues of privacy – a topic that is by no means new to Facebook.  I helped to run a networking event recently, with many attendees ‘checking in’ on Foursquare.  This mass ‘swarm’ attracted a Guardian journalist who was researching a piece on cyber-stalking using LBS – great for him, bad news for me and my delegates!  With many people continuing to misunderstand the level of their ever-changing Facebook privacy settings, could Facebook places unwittingly facilitate an increase in unwanted attention?

From a marketing perspective, Facebook has already been proven to provide some of the most targeted advertising available.  The addition of a location-based service could spell very bid things for marketers – and even more effective advertising.  But Foursquare is growing – and placing all of your eggs in one basket may not be the best option just yet – even if it is the largest basket in the industry…

Digital Democracy: Traditional Marketing & the new Public Sphere?

Back in the 1400s, Constantine battled vainly to cling onto a crumbling, outdated empire that had finally lost its way in a modern and evolving world.  Like Constantine, many marketers also remain in the past, burying their heads in the sand and trying desperately to cling onto past glories.  Are they all doomed?  Or does the traditional marketing empire simply need to refresh its politics?

Although a tad dramatic, the analogy does illustrate the futility of remaining rooted firmly in the past.  I’m not for one moment claiming that traditional methods of marketing are now redundant – not only would such a claim be foolish, but also very, very wrong.  However, the advent of Social Media has undoubtedly ushered in a new era of ‘digital democracy’ and as marketers, we have to listen to the masses – on their terms.

The days of residing in ivory towers and waiting on messengers to bring us news of focus groups, consumer opinions and insights has been surpassed by a fundamental shift in access between the rulers and the ruled.  Social Media is the catalyst of this revolution, enabling the masses to scale the city walls and breach marketing strongholds – in 2010, they literally walk among us.

So how should we, as marketers, react to this?  Yes, things are fundamentally changing, but this is not necessarily for the worst.  Rather than issuing one-way messages dictatorially, we now have the opportunity to lead organic, ground-up discussions that appeal to, and involve, the very people that matter most.  We have permission to walk amongst our customers’ playgrounds – Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, BeBo, LinkedIn, Blogs – and speak directly to the consumer on a one-to-one basis.

So you see, in reality, traditional marketing is far from over.  Social Media may well be a prevalent beast roaming the marketing landscape – but it continues to have its leash held firmly by marketing reason, strategy, channels and tradition.  We are entering – nay, are already IN – a brave new world.  ‘Digital Democracy’ has arrived.  Social Media marketing may not be the ‘right’ channel for your marketing campaigns – but its power as a public sphere in which to listen to your citizens simply cannot be ignored.

Viva la revolution.

Burn the Witch! HR’s (Incorrect) Vilification of Social Media…

HR practitioners around the country are facing an acute legal headache over the new corporate practice known as ‘Social Media Dunking’.  Line managers nationwide have reportedly been taking whole teams to rivers, lakes and ponds and hurling terrified staff into Britain’s murky waters.

If employees float, the only possible conclusion is that they have been wasting time on sites such as Twitter and Facebook, justifying a hand out of the water followed by instant dismissal.  Conversely, if staff sink, this signifies that they have never misused Social Media at work, which clears their name, but creates an extra parking space in the office due to death by drowning.

This example is, of course, fictitious (one would hope…), yet many companies vilify users of Social Media as if they were in fact mediaeval witches.  But why?  Of course, spending three hours in the office creating a photo album entitled ‘Magaluf Mayhem – Boys Weekend 2010’, and tagging all of your mates in compromising photographs that will irk potential employees is NOT conducive to productive use of the medium.  But, contrary to widespread belief amongst management functions, this does not comprise the sole use of Social Media.

One of the most frequently cited criticisms of Social Media in the workplace is that people ‘waste time on it.’  But what about employees who slink off to office kitchens and spend a good 10 minutes gossiping to colleagues about the previous Friday’s leaving do?  Surely, by default, an employee who spends 5 minutes chatting on Facebook is wasting less time than the office gossips?

And what about those who actually harness the power of Social Media for productive work use?  Multi-faceted, Twitter is a powerful communications tool that allows real networking to take place – simply look at the results of #ConnectingHR for a tangible example of Twitter’s ability to connect professionals.  Want to build a professional network that will benefit your business or brand?  5 minutes of tweeting a day could easily serve this purpose – while others discuss Sheila’s new toy boy over a slowly boiling kettle.

Sure, HR as a function has to ensure that Social Media is, like anything else, not misused.  Naturally, there will always exist a faction of disgruntled workers who do try and waste time on, amongst other things, Social Media sites.  But the trap HR practitioners desperately need to avoid falling into is demonizing Social Media and believing that it is inherently a ‘time-wasting’ exercise.

Proactive use of Social Media can greatly enhance the professional reputation of your staff as brand advocates and professional thought-leaders, which naturally leads into a debate surrounding the merging functions of marketing and HR. But Social Media, like many online tools, can greatly enhance the productivity of your people – and it’s crucial that HR functions don’t lose sight of this – proven – fact.