Recruiters, prospective clients and fellow employees are all using social media to find out more information about the people they encounter in their professional lives. Keeping your personal life online separate from your professional life is very important. You don’t want professional connections knowing all about the ins and outs of your personal life. Job candidates and current employees should follow a few simple rules when communicating through social media.
Professionals who fail to abide by these rules are at risk of missing out on job opportunities, potential termination from their current positions, non-acceptance into an institution for higher learning or professional organization and sometimes the awkwardness of someone finding out about a divorce or custody battle.
Some things just need to stay private. A study conducted last year by Career Builder found that 37 percent of employers are screening candidates by searching their social media accounts, with Facebook included in two-thirds of these searches. Even more startling is that 34 percent of hiring officials viewed materials that influenced them to not pursue a candidate.
As the primary action for protecting your online reputation, you must separate your personal life from your professional life online. It’s actually a simple process.
Setting Personal Profiles to Private
One of the most prudent actions in terms of social media is to set all personal profiles as private. A Facebook or Twitter account works for posting photos and contacting friends, but employers are taking an extra long look at what your profile reveals about you.
These social media sites allow the user to prevent current or prospective employers from seeing posts, but not all people are aware of how to administer privacy settings that seem to change on a regular basis. The best method is to separate your personal and professional profiles so that you avoid any sensitive information from being broadcasted to a wider audience. For your personal profiles, set them up by using your first, middle and last names. This will help prevent others from easily finding your information.
Another social media rule to help you set up a proper example, is not accepting friend requests from people employed at your company or in your industry. If one of these people sends you a friend request, decline it. If you do not want to deny the request without an explanation, send the person a message that explains your policy of keeping your professional life separate from your personal life and suggest that they like your professional page or profile instead. Additionally, request that they send you a LinkedIn request in the same email. It will show that you would like to connect with them, but that you want everything to remain separate.
If you are unable to adhere to this rule, then you should consider terminating these social media accounts. Individuals in a number of different professions have been fired after posting negative or unwanted content. There are plenty of news stories available where an employee ended up getting fired or in serious professional trouble because they posted a comment, status update or photo that they considered to be fine. A general rule of thumb should always be that you never criticize bosses and co-workers or complain about your company using any digital medium. You never know when or how it will fall into the wrong hands.
The difference between our professional and personal identities must be defined on social networking sites. The difficulty in separating the two is becoming more pronounced as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ establish themselves firmly as professional networking tools. By combining your professional and professional content all on one account, you run the risk of alienating a business partner or employee who might not share the same political views, religious beliefs or interests. Splitting your social media accounts into personal and professional is perhaps the best possible method to avoid any issues.
Employees have been either terminated of forced to resign due to questionable social-media behavior that involves using Facebook while “out sick,” posting unflattering photos from parties, or criticizing their superiors or fellow employees.
Know Your Privacy Settings
If you have already accepted friend or follower requests from your fellow colleagues, un-friend those people and message them to request that they “Like” your professional page.
No matter what social media sites you use, carefully read the privacy settings so that you know what your rights are and make sure you stay updated on their many privacy changes.
Account holders should know how to untag themselves from potentially embarrassing photos. Participating in games or quizzes, “Liking” pages, re-Tweeting statuses, joining communities, participating in polls and commenting on others’ statuses might potentially reveal information about you that you wish to keep private. Users should learn how to hide or block a user who might cause problems in the future. Following or “Liking” a page with religious or political affiliations is almost always publicly shown, so this is something you need to take into consideration.
If you’re an employee of a global organization, a brief summary or photo about a business trip might prove interesting to the audience; however, be aware that Twitter isn’t merely a forum for your daily routine. It’s about establishing a common bond among your audience members. Try to resist the urge to share the details of your personal life. Remember too that a disclaimer stating “the opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer,” just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Under the personal information sections (i.e. About Me), do not post about political or religious beliefs, marital status, date of birth or other intimate details. LinkedIn allows for Tweets to be automatically fed from Twitter to your LinkedIn profile. Make sure that the feed is linked to your professional Twitter account and not your personal one.
Be aware of what information is visible on your public profile, not just that which appears to your private connections. Include information in your profile that focuses solely on professional matters, such as past employers and job skills.
Develop Social Media Rules for Your Business
If you maintain the social media accounts of your business – or manage the employees who handle these duties – a few considerations must be kept in mind. Businesses should have a strict set of guidelines established for employee usage of social media sites. This will act as a preventative measure for your business. It can also protect employees from providing information online. Who is your audience? Business partners, prospective employers and customers could all be reading your Facebook posts or searching your LinkedIn profile.
Business executives and employees could cost their organizations dearly by sharing confidential information online, with the possibility of a civil lawsuit. Never allow anyone manage the organization’s social media accounts who might post remarks that might be considered offensive or will reflect negatively on your organization. Employees who do not have active social media accounts may not understand the full ramifications of using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.
Stay Updated on Latest Social Media Updates
As evidenced by Instagram’s recent development of a video-sharing service, the rules of social media change constantly. An online reputation management firm, such as Reputation Advocate, stays up to date on the latest changes that social media sites are undergoing. This continuing education assists numerous businesses that wish to maintain a consistently positive and informative social media presence.
For professionals who are concerned about their social media accounts, it’s best to stay on the side of caution. Avoid posting comments, videos or photos that might be construed as controversial. As a general rule, be aware that your posting preferences may portray you in a negative manner.