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.

***

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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3 responses to “Top Tips for a Positive Social Media Footprint

  1. Sound advice all round Callum, great advice to all job seekers.

    I hate to think that pictures on Facebook should have a bearing on a recruitment decision, but sadly experience/research says they do – and so privacy and handling of these is essential.

    Steve

  2. Thanks Steve. From a personal perspective, I do find it hypocritical that an interviewer will judge a candidate for behaviour that they would have no qualms about committing themselves. But as you rightly say, research does point out that this is so.

    What I do see is many people too afraid to enjoy Facebook and avoiding it like the plague, when a few simple privacy settings are all it takes to ensure that no-one can view your content. Yes, Facebook chops and changes its privacy issues on a seemingly monthly basis at the moment, but if you have some common sense and remain diligent, this shouldn’t be an issue.

  3. “What I do see is many people too afraid to enjoy Facebook and avoiding it like the plague”

    I’m toying with the idea of joing Facebook, having decided not to join the site in the past. I can really see the positives as it would be a good opportunity to stay in contact with past friends and even brothers that have moved on.

    On the other hand I am loving my job at the moment and I feel that the personal and professional personalities should be kept seperate and I am not sure if Facebook can ensure that.

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