Social media is what you make it.
You can represent yourself however you’d like -- and you have the power to influence what people think of you and how they feel about you. While free speech is your right, you should utilize caution when posting to social media; your social media profile should not be your diary, soap box, or opinion editorial.
What is your Personal Brand?
Think of people who represent their brand clearly, like Ellen DeGeneres, who shares images, articles, and motivational posts with a consistent, positive message. Since you have complete control over how your unique brand appears online, you should consider how you want to be perceived by your online audience. Your "personal brand" is the image that you represent about who you are when you meet new people socially, interact with others in a professional environment, or are marketing yourself for a job. Your online profiles should be in line with the persona you want to portray to friends and strangers alike.
Things to consider and ask yourself:
1: What comes up when you Google yourself?
First, when Googling yourself, utilize the incognito window of your browser. This will allow the virgin algorithm to bring up what a stranger would see about you, untainted by your prior search history. This will likely be different from what you would see in your regular search window, because Google’s algorithm pulls from things you search for and sites you engage with to tailor your results to you, so you may see some things about you that might not come up to a stranger.
Second, look at your results, and the order in which they come up. What photos are displayed? What profiles are listed? This is a great place to start enhancing your personal brand. LinkedIn and Facebook are usually the two sites that come up first about the average person. Make sure these profiles are completely filled out with information you want people to see, and that your picture is updated. This will be the first time a person puts a name with your face. Make it count!
2: Would you share this information with your employer?
Social media sites are public information, even if you use privacy controls. Information, pictures, ideas and opinions that you share on your social media pages exist, permanently, for the world to see. Consider when you are about to post something if this is something you’d feel comfortable sharing with your employer, or a future employer, when they look you up to hire you. Just like a background check, employers are looking more on social media pages to get an idea of what an individual is like before hiring them. Think of the pictures you posted back in college or the one with a beer in your hand at the 4th of July barbeque. Does this speak to the personal brand you want to represent to your current and future employers?
3: Would you say this out loud at work?
Workplaces are becoming more casual and many offices allow their employees to be on social media (for business or for personal use) during their workday. In addition, people develop relationships with their work friends and often add them on social media sites. Consider when you’re posting something to your profile if you’d feel comfortable saying it at work. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing that thought or picture at work, it might not be a good representation of your personal brand.
4: Would you share this on a first date?
With increasing numbers of online dating apps like Tinder, Match, and OKCupid, it's more and more common to Google prospective dates, or search for them on Facebook. Consider if you would share an idea or picture with an acquaintance on the first date. While pictures of you and the dancers at your sister’s bachelorette party are funny to your friends, do you think that’s the first thing your new date wants to see? Think of your personal brand and how you portray yourself to an acquaintance or a new contact and if your posts are in line with that idea.
5: Are you asking for trouble?
The number one piece of advice I hear in relation to social media is “Don’t air your dirty laundry.” This is in line with not considering your social media profiles to be your diary. You may be going through something in your life that causes stress or you may have had a bad day, but posting opinions or concerns on social media sites can be a bad idea. It can negatively affect the personal brand that you’re trying to portray and the relationships you have with the people that follow your accounts. Social media is not a place to discuss your opinions on touchy subjects like religion, politics, or other inflammatory topics. These discussions can end up hurting relationships. While it's easier to feel safe voicing your opinion when you're behind a screen, realize that if you wouldn’t say it out loud then it probably shouldn’t be said, in writing, permanently, for the world to see.
Living in this digital world can seem welcoming and open, but consider when posting certain items that they will be online forever and people will always be able to access them (even if you delete them). Think of how what you post may affect relationships, future careers, and opportunities. Keep your personal brand foremost in mind when posting on social media and make sure it conveys to the world what you want it to see.
For more information about social media and LinkedIn for personal use, read this blog by Kelsey Meyer.
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