5 Rules for Navigating Social Media

This post is by Phil La Duke, a partner in the Performance Assurance Practice for ERM. La Duke has over 20 years of training, performance improvement, and lean manufacturing experience.

It seems like everything you read about social networking these days contains some dire admonishment about the importance of keeping your social outlets squeaky clean. While it’s unwise to post compromising photos or fringe political statements on your Facebook profile treating everything as if it were your resume takes a lot of the social aspects out of social networking.

Clearly there is a balance between a staid, bland, joyless profile and one that forever jeopardizes your career. Just where that particular balance lies depends in a large measure on what you hope to accomplish in terms of your personal brand. Here are some rules that allow you to advance your brand without taking all the fun out of life:

  • Post with Purpose. Avoid posting material just for the sake of putting up content, and before you post, ask what the post says about you personally. Not everything should be shared, the things you don’t post tell the world as much about you—or more—than the things you do post.
  • Combine Elements To Create Rich Public Portrait Of Yourself. There’s more to you than just work so showcase those things about you that make you unique. Your social outlets allow you to share more about who you are as a person than a resume or CV ever can. Use these media to share your interests and hobbies that enrich your personal brand and differentiate you from the crowd. Remember, however, there are details about yourself that you should kept private.
  • Remember It’s Not Just About Work. As the adage says, “all work and no play…” even so, social networking is still primarily about networking, so you should be mindful of not only of what your posts say about you to potential employers, but also to your friends and family, it will be they—and their view of you—that can have the greatest potential impact on your career. Think long and hard about the public persona you want to cultivate and post only those things that enhance your reputation.
  • Sometimes Less Is More. Your social networks is a form of media exposure and good public relations agents make sure their clients don’t get over exposed. There are lessons to be learned from this approach, before posting ask yourself if you are advancing your brand by providing some new information about yourself or are you repeating yourself. Posting similar messages about your love of sailing over and over again may not make you seem more interesting, but more mono-dimensional.
  • Post Your Best, Leave the Rest. Social networks allow us instant and immediate access to the world; use this access judiciously. Never post while angry, under the influence, or in any other state that may cause you to post things you will regret later. You may be able to take down sites and scrub your public image but negative posts may forever alienate people who you may someday want on your side.

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  • Sneaky Guy

    You forgot the best advice to use on a social networking site – use an Alias. If your name is Joe Shmoe, go ahead and set up a dull, safe account under your real name, then make a second account where you post whatever you want, like “King Joe” or “Radical Skateboarder”. It’s usually best not to have your two accounts be linked in any way, especialy if your pictures are mostly on your ‘fun’ account. Any employer who searches for you by your name will just find the safe account.

  • http://www.thegallerygoddess.com Vicki Bower, The Gallery Goddess

    This is one of the most valuable and concise articles I have read in quite some time. Very well put. I love “Combine Elements To Create a Rich Public Portrait Of Yourself.” People need to realize that behind the keys, we are all still human and to retain some of that humanity.

    One of your best lessons here are “Never post while angry, under the influence, or in any other state that may cause you to post things you will regret later. You may be able to take down sites and scrub your public image but negative posts may forever alienate people who you may someday want on your side.” I know more than a few social media presences I no longer follow for the reason admonished against here.
    Thank you, Mary Ellen, for “5 Rules for Navigating Social Media.”

  • JB

    I have to say that I’m rather troubled by the fact that “social” media is becoming anything but. It really should be called something else because it appears to be morphing into a social inhibitor and, as this article affirms, a platform for encouraging radical levels of self-censorship. It’s as if we’re being coerced into being our own Big Brothers.

    Employers need to learn to differentiate between the freewheeling nature of a social environment (which is what it should absolutely be allowed to be) and the more formal ones that we see in LinkedIn, Klout, and their ilk. Personally, I wouldn’t (and won’t) want to work for anyone who can’t make the distinction between LinkedIn and a Facebook account or social blog where people should feel free of the restrictions that are found – and necessary – in a workplace environment. It’s all about CONTEXT. If you interpret Facebook posts too literally you’ve got a problem – ESPECIALLY if you’re an employer.

    Like the article says… “All work and no play…” invariably unleashes the Jack Torrance in us all, particularly when employees are increasingly being required to work more for less while reading about CEOs who keep giving themselves unjustifiable pay raises.

    Message to employers: lighten up. Seriously. It’s just venting and EVERYONE needs to do that on occasion. What do you think happens to a steam engine without a stack to whistle and blow through?