The way we interact via the Internet has changed significantly over the past 10 years. For professionals, managing the balance between having a private life, being seen to be media savvy and actively promoting yourself on social media is a tightrope. In order to manage this balancing act, we have put together some top tips and advice to help you to become a professional social media user:
1. Do you need to have a profile?
Depending on your role, the importance of having a public social media profile can vary. Certain roles demand that you have a squeaky clean media profile, such as teacher, police officer, lawyer etc. If you want to be seen as a key player in your industry, then you may need to have a presence on business sites such as LinkedIn. If you have reached a certain professional stage in your career, then showing that you ‘get’ social media is crucial. So be brave, take the first step! However, if you have open images of you having rather too much of a good time, regardless of when, take them down (or ensure your security settings are tight!). You must manage your profile, one way or another. Very few people can hide from it these days, which brings us on to the next rule:
2. Be genuine but behave as though your mother is proof reading your updates and posts.
It doesn’t matter whether you are using Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn as your media network of choice. Whatever you are writing, don’t try to be someone else, be genuine. Keep it as clean as possible and ensure that when you express your views via social media, you think about how these come across to those who don’t know you. Googling is a standard background check for potential employers and what they find can be used for you or against you. Being seen to have fun is OK, as is having a personal life. But coming across as too opinionated, close to the wrong people, unreliable or biased can get you fired before your resume touches the desk.
3. If in doubt, don’t do it.
For professionals, LinkedIn is probably the most useful media. You can just have a professional presence or choose to blog, support causes, companies, networks and trends you think are important. If your company or profession is better represented in images, join Instagram. If you or your company wants to join more detailed discussions, this is when Facebook and/or Twitter come into play. But beware. Understand the difference between personal and professional and draw a very definite line in your own mind, and your actions. Social media grows connections that were never possible 10 years ago. It has made the world a smaller, more connected place. Social media can be an excellent tool for career development and networking. Misuse of social media on the other hand could affect your career in a negative way, so be an honest social media butterfly and always double check what you put out there!