Putting stuff on the internet is scary. People feel very passionately about… well, everything. Any comment can be misconstrued as offensive, any fact can be ignored. A social media account is a ticking time bomb. Anything you say can and will be held against you by your friends, family members, and most importantly for our purposes here, employers.
So, what’s the point, right? You’re going to have to tiptoe around the internet from now on, careful not to post anything interesting, lest you offend somebody, right? No! Because despite all the blog posts I’ve devoted to how scary and toxic it can be, the truth is social media is easy. Here are a few simple things to keep in mind when you’re building your online presence:
1. Social media is not an option: You can’t be scared of social media, because in many modern industries, an understanding of social media isn’t an option; it’s required. The mechanics of communicating online are surprisingly complicated and if you want to succeed, you’re going to have to understand them. That means engaging people online, and the best way to start off doing this is through your personal social media profiles.
2. Serious social media gaffs are the product of stupidity: Hey, remember when KitchenAid, the maker of your favorite mixer, tweeted a terribly offensive joke about Obama’s dead grandmother during the last presidential election? That was stupid, like really, really stupid. The person who tweeted that had to A) have that thought, B) think it was appropriate to put on the internet, C) be logged into KitchenAid’s twitter account, D) not remember he or she was logged into KitchenAid’s Twitter account, E) not seen the KitchenAid logo up at the top corner of his or her screen, and F) press the Tweet button. This, and most social media gaffs, can be avoided with upwards of 12 seconds worth of thought.
3. You’re allowed to have a personality: I know that I’ve made a big deal about social media’s role in getting jobs, but let’s remember something for a second: it’s called SOCIAL media. It’s supposed to be a SOCIAL device. It’s as much a part of the job application process as shaving and showering is a part of the interview. You’re allowed to be yourself on Facebook and Twitter. If someone doesn’t want to hire you because of your tastes in music, your sense of humor, or your interests outside of work, don’t worry; you didn’t want to work there anyway.
4. It’s all relative: When it comes to appealing to potential employers, posting an edgy joke, a religious diatribe, a political rant might seem like a no-no, but really it depends. Certain organizations might appreciate each of these things. For example, an ad agency would appreciate a joke that toes the line of appropriateness; it shows you know how to keep things shocking and exciting without being outwardly offensive. You always have to know your audience.
5. There are privacy settings: Look, if you don’t want to clean up your online act, that’s fine, but at least put it away. Set your privacy settings so that people who are searching you can’t see everything you post. Keep yourself under wraps. Then you don’t need to worry about the repercussions.
That’s our take. Now tell us yours! How do you maintain your online presence?