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Don’t Let Social Media Undermine your Professional Brand

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A friend recently told me about a senior exec her company had been about to hire – at least until they spotted some inappropriate comments he’d made on Facebook. His posting was an indication of inappropriate reactions to everyday situations that they were concerned might transfer to the poor handling of professional challenges.

To me, this was a healthy reminder about the impact all our ‘brand channels’ have on our image – most are intertwined, particularly in the eyes of recruiters. As the motivational speaker Tom Peters has stated, “You are CEO of brand you” – so in public online forums in particular, represent yourself as positively as possible.

Below are some valid pointers that may be worth considering when traversing the social media stratosphere, to ensure your brand image consistently appeals to recruiters and other career stakeholders.

Avoid fleeting feelings and potentially offensive comments: It’s been suggested that around half of all recruiters and employment managers will ‘interview’ you via your social media profiles, including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, so really stop and think before hitting send, like or share. We all have opinions and most of know what it’s like to experience a ‘rainy day’, but always pause and consider whether those strong reactions or temporary feelings are something you want to be permanently branded with.

Just because you keep them separate, doesn’t mean others will: While I personally strive to keep my personal Facebook page separate from my business Facebook page and my LinkedIn profile, it can’t be guaranteed that others will adhere to my social media segregation rules. Type your name into Google and you’re likely to be offered up links to at least both your Facebook and LinkedIn account. Recruiters will be provided with the same info.

Your characteristics and values are gauged on Facebook: Author Paul Carrick Brunson recommended: “Think once before you act, twice before you speak, and three times before you post on Facebook”. With the Journal of Applied Social Psychology confirming that Facebook is now used by recruiters to determine our professional behaviours and reactions, this is sage advice. No doubt as relevant to what you share as what you write, Facebook is now recognised as a recruitment measuring tool that can assess levels of emotional stability, extroversion, intellectual curiosity and agreeability in a potential employee.

Blocking your personal profile isn’t always the answer: As tempting as it might be to block your Facebook and other more personal social media profiles from the general public, keep in mind that this could throw up suspicions. Remember, recruiters are likely to find links to your social media accounts via a Google search. You then not allowing them access could make them wonder why – what is it that you’re trying to hide.

So before you post something on your Facebook page or other social media profiles about the challenging day you’ve had or situation you’ve just encountered, stop and think. There are no doubt plenty of personal benefits from having a social media presence – a great way to keep in touch with friends near and far, and to share what you’ve been up to. But always keep in mind the professional impact your online personal branding can have on future career aspirations.