What’s in a brand? More importantly, what is your brand? If you’ve never thought of yourself as a marketing campaign, think again – especially when it comes to how you present yourself online.
From Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn, YouTube, Google Plus and more, social media is this generation’s biggest blessing and greatest curse. Sure social media has its advantages, but when it is misused (as it so often is) it can become more of a headache than a help.
Imperfect privacy protection
You must understand that whatever you put on the internet is out there for the world to see. Like it or not, all eyes are on you! Even when you think you have taken every privacy precaution possible, others may still be able to see your information, photos, comments or updates. The internet can be a dangerous and very revealing place to be, so beware that no social network privacy option is iron clad.
Photo faux pas
Think your Facebook photos are harmless? They may very well be, but keep in mind that just because you may not be displaying inappropriate or unacceptable behavior in the captured moment does not mean others will be viewed in quite the same light.
Michael P. Grace, founder of Virallock, a social media monitoring and management service, advises, “When posting or tagging photos, watch for what people are doing in the background.” He also cautions to beware of objects in the foreground. Ever hear of being guilty by association? You don’t want to take that chance.
Words to live by
Your brand far exceeds imagery. Your words are powerful as well, especially when they appear in print. Don’t use social media as an outlet for angry messages toward others, personal or otherwise. Having a fight with a friend or disagreeing with a recent news story is bound to happen; however, posting your feelings for the world to see is never a good idea.
Remember, social media is meant for networking — to connect with others, both personally and professionally — and keeping it as positive and light as possible will always be in your best interest.
In addition, Grace offers the following advice to social media users: “Don’t express pride in speeding tickets, criminal behavior, detention or truancy.” Posting about such socially irresponsible topics will reflect poorly on your character and may potentially tarnish your reputation -— or “brand.”
“Watch for obnoxious comments in photo posts,” warns Grace. Just as in photos, you can never be too careful when it comes to your friends. The things they say on your posts will reflect on you as well, so be sure you are comfortable (and in agreement) with what they say and do. They are a reflection of you – both good and bad — so keep that in mind with everything they do online as well. If what your “friends” do online is questionable or unacceptable to you in any way, delete them immediately. Your brand is on the line.
Be prepared for your posts to last forever. It is safe to assume that anything and everything you post on a social media site will remain long after you put it up, so with every click of “submit,” “post,” “comment, “tweet” or “share,” know that you are releasing your words into the world wide web forever. There is no taking it back, and in some unfortunate cases, it may come back to haunt you.
Social (media) good
Had enough of the warnings? Social media can be used for good, too! In fact, it can be a great tool for “selling” yourself to colleges and potential employers. With a strong profile full of interesting tidbits about yourself — including accomplishments, special awards, achievements, volunteer work and interests — you can share your most positive characteristics with those you want (and need) to impress the most.
“Be transparent and authentic,” says Grace. In a recent study conducted by Virallock, companies that are using social media sites to actively search potential job candidates is up 91 percent. That means that employers are increasingly relying on social media to help make hiring decisions.
Of those companies who admit to using social media in their hiring decisions, 68 percent said that they hired a potential employee because of what they found via social media. Just as interesting, 69 percent rejected potential employees due to social media findings. Even if you disagree with this tactic, it’s real, it’s happening and is gaining momentum. Keep in mind that employers have every right to use social media as a tool to see their potential employees, and they can only find what you put out there. So, here’s a great tip: Google yourself.
Yep, that’s right. Find out what the internet has to say about you before someone else does. Scared of what you might see? Then it’s time to clean up your profiles online. Take an inventory of what you have posted, including all status updates, tweets, photos, comments and anything else you have uploaded that may be questionable. And the best rule of thumb? When in doubt, don’t.
“Social media is here [to stay]. It has changed the fabric of our society,” says Grace.
So, before you upload those photos from your senior ball, make a comment about an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, or post a link to a controversial article or blog post, consider your brand.
In the end, your reputation is all you have and your brand is your one chance to make a lasting impression. Make it a great one!