It doesn’t matter whether you’re an avid user or you only check your accounts every now and then, if you work in a professional environment, and will be looking to change jobs at some point, you need to be in control of your online image, otherwise known as your digital footprint. Your digital footprint is formed by all your activity online, but one of the biggest factors, and the variable you have control over is your social media presence. And your online image isn’t just the content you post, it’s the comments you leave, the posts you like, the accounts you follow and the comments people leave on your pages that tell a stranger or hiring manager a lot about you. Let’s talk about how to give yourself a social media makeover, and why you need to get onto it pronto.
Know that you will get checked out
Whether it’s by a potential employer or an old classmate fishing for gossip, there are people monitoring your online presence. If you’re a hiring manager considering a job applicant, it makes sense that the first step you’d take to give yourself a bit of background knowledge about the author of the CV in your hands is to track down their Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter.
Check yourself out
To begin the process of cleansing your social media presence, search for yourself via a range of search engines. Check out the search results, as well as the image results. Is this information stuff you’d like anyone to be able to see?
There’s no such thing as secret
Protecting the confidentiality of your personal information isn’t just up to you. If you have an account you’ve automatically shared all your data with the site owners. As recent events have brought to light, Facebook in particular is experiencing difficulties in keeping your data safe. At the end of the day, nothing you say or do on Facebook, or on any platform for that matter, is truly private or confidential. So play it safe.
Do some planting and pruning
You can cultivate a digital footprint you’re proud of. It’s time to get rid of those photos of your Year 12 formal after-party. Go through all the content you’ve uploaded or been tagged in and get rid of anything controversial. Apart from scrubbing content that is potentially damaging to your professionalism.
On Facebook when you edit your security settings you can see what your timeline looks like to people who aren’t friends with. Make sure it’s the bare minimum.
If you have photos that you would worry about a potential employer seeing, you can save these photos to a hard drive if they have sentimental value or restrict access to your past posts to friends only. In your Account Settings click on Privacy. There’ll be a tab that says ‘Who can see my posts?’. Limit your past posts so that only you can see them. That way you can have a nostalgic scroll through your feed but no one else can.
Unfortunately, you can’t always control your friends and what they post. To avoid embarrassing pics from your 21st, or that glorious shot taken of you emerging at 6am from your tent on the 5th day of camping, you need to limit tagging. In your Facebook settings you can determine whether or not you can be tagged, and if you would like to approve any tagged photos before going up. While it will not control whether or not those photos can be uploaded onto Facebook, it can ensure they do not show up in your newsfeed or be searchable under your name on the platform.
The security settings on Instagram are straight forward. The simplest way to keep your Instagram out of the public eye is to set it to private. If you haven’t done this already, question why it’s necessary to keep it public. If you are not promoting anything on Instagram, then you limiting who has access to your photos is in your best interests.
Twitter is a tricky one, as you might have had an account for ages. Consider what the tone of your feed is, delete anything offensive and consider changing your username and handle to something anonymous. If you opt to leave your account affiliated with your name, posting and reposting content related to your field of work or study lets potential employers know you are interested and passionate about the industry. Maintaining this habit over an extended period of time will showcase your invested interest in the industry, as opposed to a sudden splash of postings shortly after you’ve applied for a job, which might seem disingenuous.
Even if you don’t use LinkedIn frequently, if you have a profile you must put a little effort into it. Update your profile regularly so it always shows the most recent information about your work and study. This is the place to share the information you want employers to know about - like your experience, skills, aspirations and achievements. Make sure you have a professional quality photo of just yourself, and take the time to change out the banner on your page to something that reflects you or what you do. Your interactions and postings can go a long way to painting a picture of who you are professionally and are visible to people checking out your profile. Again, this is a great platform to play the long game in posting, commenting and sharing industry and other skills-set specific content to showcase your interests, thoughts and talents.
Match the social media persona to your audience
Different social media platforms are better for different aspects of your personal and professional life. LinkedIn should always remain strictly professional. This is the version of yourself you want employers, creditors and teachers to see. Facebook has largely become for family and friends, so keep it pretty tame.
If must have a space to vent your political frustrations or share dank memes, it’s a good idea to create an anonymous Instagram or Twitter profile with a separate email address to avoid anything that might cause a future hiring bias or damage your relationship with your colleagues.
Set Boundaries on Social Media
- Make some rules and stick to them.
- Never talk about work on social media
- If you’re partying, leave your phone in your pocket
- Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your Grandma to see
- Never accept friend requests from people you don’t know
- Keep things positive, avoid posting anything negative or hateful
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a job seeker or happily employed, you must always be careful to maintain a safe and secure approach to social media. Your digital footprint never goes away, so be mindful and make sure it doesn’t give you grief!
If you are interested in learning a little bit more about social media, check out Upskilled's social media short course. And if you are really interested, there are also courses that will help you start your career in marketing and social media management. All courses are offered online and are nationally accredited as well.