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Social media traps

Social media traps

By Adam Wakeling


Here are some do’s and don’ts that will help to protect your professional reputation.

We’ve all heard social media horror stories – like the woman who ended up fired from her job for posting pictures of herself acting disrespectfully at the Arlington National Cemetery, another who destroyed her professional life with a racist joke tweet made on a plane trip to Africa (ironically, she was a PR executive), and the executive who had her derisive email to a jobseeker go viral. But people continue to damage themselves personally and professionally by making simple mistakes like complaining about their boss or customers on a public platform, or leaving compromising photos up on Facebook. Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you build and protect your professional reputation on social media.

DO learn how to use the platforms that you are on to their full potential. Understanding the algorithms behind LinkedIn, for example, can help you build a more visible profile that comes up more frequently in searches and is recommended more commonly to potential connections.

DO use social media to show your interest in working in a particular field. You can use LinkedIn to maintain connections with people who work in the profession, follow organisations and like their content, and if you find an interesting article on the topic, post it as an update of your own. Social media can build your reputation as well as destroy it.

DO actively remove old or out-of-date content. People are still caught out by pictures or posts from years ago that come back from the dead to haunt them.

DO mind your privacy settings, but at the same time, don’t rely on them to protect you. People in your network can share with those outside it.

DO maintain some separation in your professional and personal life. This is a good rule to follow across the board, but it is particularly applicable to social media.

DON’T feel that you have to be on social media. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can be useful and even powerful tools, but there is little point in creating an account that you are not going to use. Alternatively, you may have one platform that you like, and it’s OK to simply use that one alone.

DON’T confuse one platform for another. This is particularly common with LinkedIn and Facebook – some people have weirdly inappropriate LinkedIn profile pictures, or clog the feeds of their connections with dozens of likes of pictures, quotes or other seemingly-random content. Also, while a tweet and a LinkedIn post are both ways of publishing your views on something, they are very different media and require a different approach.

DON’T feel that you have to accept every request. It’s OK not to add your colleagues on Facebook and limit the people you connect with on LinkedIn.

DON’T expect everyone to connect with you – this is the reverse of the previous rule. People such as graduate recruiters or the lawyers who attend student networking events can receive hundreds of requests in LinkedIn, so you would need to show some actual value as a connection before they accept you. Likewise, your boss, colleagues or people that you are not close to may not want to connect with you on Facebook. Don’t take it personally.
The most important rule:

DON’T post anything on social media if you wouldn’t want to see it on the front page of tomorrow’s Herald Sun.

Adam Wakeling, Senior Compliance Adviser, State Trustees and Chair, YL Editorial Committee.

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