Don’t Let Your Social Media Identity Ruin Your Hard-earned Business Reputation
By Tyler Cohen Wood
We have spent our careers perfecting our reputation and managing the perception others have of us in order to succeed in our chosen fields. We work hard to be viewed as people who can be counted on to get the job done, and done well. This is the perception that we strive for our bosses, colleagues and other experts in our field to have of us. Not only does our good work leave an impression, but so does the way we carry ourselves and communicate with bosses and colleagues. But what if I told you that all the hard work that you have put into managing your professional image could be destroyed by a single post by you or about you to on social media?
It is much easier to make a good first impression and maintain it than it is to attempt to fix a bad first impression or reputation. When you walk into a meeting, give a briefing or interview for a job, people are forming an impression of you as a person and whether or not you are trustworthy and possess professional credibility. The same can be said of a colleague, expert or potential new boss pursuing your social media accounts or online identity. A perception of who you are as a person, your work ethic, your dependability, experience, expertise and professionalism shines through in your online identity.
It is important that you use this to your advantage and manage your online image accordingly. Follow the five tips below when posting anything to social media to manage and maintain your hard earned professional reputation:
1. Assume that anyone can read all of your posts. A lot of people make the assumption that they are protected by the privacy settings on their social media accounts, but this is not entirely true; privacy settings can and do change. When you post to your personal and professional social media, make sure that with each post you imagine your boss, colleagues or other experts in your field reading it, and think about how they will perceive you based on it.
2. Never complain about work or speak ill of former colleagues or employers. Maybe you had a bad day at work or are frustrated because you got turned down for a promotion, but social media is not the place to air your dirty laundry (or your company’s!). When I discussed this issue with HR professionals, all of them said that when viewing potential candidates’ social media for a position (which they all do), they will pass on a candidate who negatively talks about their company or boss. The perception they have is that that type of person will not work well on a team and, even worse, might not keep company secrets.
3. Don’t let your posts make you appear to fall into a negative personality type. Don’t be over argumentative about any issue. You might be very passionate about a political issue, which is great, but social media is not the place to engage in a heated argument about it. I have seen people get into what would be the equivalent of a social media fist fight over politics. All HR professionals and hiring managers that I spoke with said that this is a huge turn off. First, you probably won’t change the other person’s mind on the issue. Second, it shows that you are not open or respectful to other people’s opinions. Lastly, it makes you look as if you can’t compromise, which is an essential component to all successful business ventures.
4. Show that you have an outside life. All HR professionals and hiring managers that I spoke with said that they like knowing their employees don’t live and breathe work. If you belong to a charity, they love seeing that. If you have a hobby like art, biking or cooking, it shows that you have passions and engage with your community. This shows that you are a good team player and an interesting person.
5. Be careful who your friends are. The “birds of a feather, flock together” concept is very real in both online and physical realms. If you are friends with colleagues who are known troublemakers, it might make you appear to be a troublemaker too, whether that is true or not. Also, pay close attention to what your friends post and what they tag you in. That photo of the bachelor party where everyone had one too many shots of tequila does not belong on social media.
With these five tips, you will be well on your way to both making a good first impression online and maintaining the reputation that you’ve already built. With those two things working in your favor, the sky’s the limit!
[This is a guest post and I will be interviewing Tyler and reviewing her book. Stay tuned!]
Tyler Cohen Wood is a senior officer and Cyber Branch Chief for the Defense Intelligence Agency. She has 14+ years of experience with Cyber forensics, supporting the Department of Defense and law enforcement. In her debut book, Catching the Catfishers: Disarm the Online Pretenders, Predators, and Perpetrators Who Are Out to Ruin Your Life, she discusses how to protect yourself online and maintain your online privacy.
All views are her own and do not in any way reflect those of my employing agency or the United States Government.