In this digital age, it’s important to have a consistent, professional online presence. As a young person in the workforce, I know how prevalent social media use is. However, many people are unaware that an inappropriate post, tweet or photo online could get them in trouble or cost them a job. Especially in the public relations and journalism-related world (but also in most other fields of employment), use of social media is visible to an employer, colleagues and everyone else.
Especially because sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, blogs and other social websites are so commonly used by young people, it is absolutely necessary to be aware of what kind of image your social media accounts project. This impression, as well as how people perceive you, is your personal brand. Therefore, it is vital to present a professional and polished – but still personal and interesting – personal brand online. Cultivating your image can be difficult; it requires planning and restraint.
REMOVE PAST CONTENT
The first step to making your social media presence professional and consistent involves removing past content. If there are any Facebook posts about partying, tweets mocking a celebrity or Instagram photos of you looking particularly unprofessional, you should remove that content. You might even want to consider deleting an account entirely and starting a new one. Your goal is to only have visible content that you would be comfortable with a prospective employer seeing.
IDENTIFY YOUR FOCUS
The next step is to identify what type of content you want associated with yourself. Sometimes this means that you will focus on one topic. This is up to your personal preferences, but you may want to consider what your areas of interest are. For example, are you an expert on anything? Maybe you are particularly knowledgeable about eco-friendly technology, informed about local politics or passionate about your city’s culture. Choose a few areas of interest or expertise and create content on social media that is consistent with those topics. This does not mean that you must exclusively post about one topic, but if you have a focus your content will be more cohesive across all social media platforms, and your personal brand will be memorable.
Any social media content should follow common-sense rules of professionalism. Realistically, however, you also want to showcase your personality and maintain a balance between personal and professional content. This means that you can (and should) also post personal anecdotes, pictures and opinions as long as that content is not something an employer would be uncomfortable seeing.
To maintain that balance, you may want to consider setting up multiple social media accounts. For example, if you are a technology-related PR professional but you also want to post pictures of your dinner every day or of a wild weekend party on Instagram, create an additional account for that purpose. Create a username or url that doesn’t include identifying information and keep that account separate from any of your professional social media accounts.
Other important advice is fairly common-sense: always proofread your material before you post it, and try to make sure your content is relevant and timely. Additionally, don’t be afraid to promote yourself! Link to your Pinterest profile from your Facebook page, include your Twitter handle in your email signature and create a YouTube video that relates to a new blog post.
When you connect all your social media accounts and post related and good-quality material consistent with your chosen image, your personal brand will be professional and memorable.
These articles from Forbes – one that focuses on offline tactics and one with a digital emphasis – are relevant. For more information about using specific sites and other methods such as business cards, read this article from Mashable.