Just because you’re not posting drunk selfies or smoking ganja on Instagram doesn’t mean you’ve got this social media thing all figured out. There are so many more subtle social media mistakes to avoid if you plan on keeping your job.
Mistake 1: Not Keeping Professional and Personal Separate
The lines between personal and professional get more and more blurred, and nowhere is this more apparent than on social media, says Chris Duchesne, vice president of Workplace Solutions at Care.com. It’s critical to keep all public interaction professional, regardless of which social media site you’re on, he says.
“It’s a good rule of thumb to never post anything you wouldn’t want a boss or prospective employer to see,” Duchesne says, and always assume that, no matter how strict your privacy settings are, that your post will be seen.
“People do extensive research on these sites before they hire you,” Duchesne says. “Because of the technology, the personal and professional spheres are more integrated than ever, and it’s safest to assume that your social media persona is not separate from your professional persona,” he says.
Mistake 2: Not Considering Your Audience or Context
Jean Dobey, CEO of social networking site Hibe.com, founded his company specifically to address the separation (or lack thereof) between the personal and professional on social media. Hibe.com allows users to create “micro social networks” that include connections only between contacts and friends from specific areas of your life, he says.
“As a medium, we looked at social networking and realized we have different ‘faces’ to interact with different people in different aspects of life,” Dobey says. “People should have privacy and the ability to separate those spheres from each other, and while you can do this within existing social platforms, ours takes it to a different level,” he says.
As an example, Dobey says, imagine you’re in a restaurant having lunch with a professional colleague. You’re wearing a nice suit, and chatting about professional matters. If a college buddy walks in and sees you, they’re able to take in your demeanor and appearance and make an assumption that they should approach you in a professional, reserved manner, since it’s obvious you’re in a professional context. But online, via social media, it can be difficult to interpret these contextual clues, he says.
“That can lead to some major misunderstandings and social faux pas,” says Dobey. “If you post content in a professional context, but your college buddy can’t tell that, he may reply with comments or other media content that’s completely inappropriate – and that’s bad news for you,” he says.
“You need to really understand who your audience is when you’re delivering content online. When that audience is mixing personal and professional, you’re going to introduce misunderstandings. The best way to avoid this is to keep them completely separated from each other,” Dobey says.
Mistake 3: Beware of Zombie Content
“You have to be aware of how permanent this medium is. Once content’s out there, it’s out there forever — it’ll never die, like a zombie, and you should be aware that it’ll probably rear its ugly head at the worst possible moment, like when you’re trying to get a job,” he says.
One of the first things recruiters do is Google candidates, and scour social media to get a sense of the candidate’s personality and potential cultural fit with an organization, Metcalf says. Echoing Care.com’s Duchesne, Metcalf says a good rule of thumb is never post anything on social media that you wouldn’t want your mother to see.
Mistake 4: Unbalanced Online Content
If your social networking connections are a mix of the personal and professional, you need to make sure you’re not perceived as “partying” more than working, says CEO and co-founder of Strikingly.com David Chen.
Chen’s company offers a one-click solution for users to create personal websites that can serve as online resumes or portfolios, and offers integration with LinkedIn to better showcase job-seekers’ talents, he says.
“You’re not only being judged by the personal content versus professional content you post, it’s also about the ratio of non-work-related posts that show up in your feed,” he says. If too many “personal” posts are appearing, you may come across as someone who’s not dedicated or serious about your job or professional responsibilities, Chen says.
“A good rule to follow is this: one third ‘interesting content’ posts, one third ‘informative’ posts and one third ‘promotional’ posts,” he says.
Mistake 5: Ill-timed Online Content
Another common mistake, Chen says, is the timing of your social media activity. Because most online content is time-stamped, your current or future employer can easily determine if you’re regularly posting online content during work hours, and depending on their policies, that can get you fired, he says.
“Are you blogging or Facebooking during work hours when you shouldn’t be? Your boss or a vindictive, catty co-worker can easily catch on, landing you a warning or a meeting with the HR department,” Chen says.
Care.com’s Duchesne advises taking your cues from senior leadership in your company to determine when, how much and what type of content is appropriate to post.
Mistake 6: Making a Poor Online First Impression
The first impression employers or potential employers have of you now comes from Google and from social media, Chen says. If the first few search results for your name aren’t the most flattering, you’ve got to create new content — like a personal, branded website — to replace those results, he says.
“Monitoring your online professional impression also means checking out what Google Images says about you. Often that’s the most incriminating tool for potential and current employees — because it’s the first thing that pops up,” Chen says.