In today’s context, it seems like virtually everyone is using social media in some form or another. Each month, approximately 336 million people Tweet, 1 billion people use Instagram and 2.196 billion people use Facebook, and each day 191 million people are using Snapchat. This means that the ability to connect with nearly half the global population is available at the touch of a button at any time. While the internet in general, has given us a remarkable ability to convene and share ideas, it also means that anything and everything that you post can circulate at lightning speed, not just to your family and friends whether you like it or not. An average of 70% of employers are now looking up potential job candidates on social media prior to making hiring decisions, and if what they find is deemed inappropriate or unprofessional, it can hurt your chances of finding employment. With all these things said, it is a bit unrealistic to stay off from social media just to avoid social media screening. Instead, there are some best practices that you can implement to help ensure that your online presence is best reflective of you as a professional.
Separate your Professional Image from Personal Image
This is crucial when you step into the corporate world. No matter how strict your privacy settings are, a good rule of thumb would be to never post anything you would not want a prospective employer to see. Your online persona should not be different from your persona unless it could give a distrustful impression. Maintaining a good image on professional social media platforms like LinkedIn and sharing photos and posts like a hipster on other social media platforms does not make sense at all. Because there is no guarantee that future employers will only look for your LinkedIn profile. So, keeping all public interaction professional as much as possible, regardless of the social media site you are on, is a good practice to follow.
These days, due to the vast usage of social media, people tend to share things that are not true at all to get the attention of people. May it be a personal image or a professional post about a project which you have never done, we may think that people will never find out the truth. Somehow if the truth comes out it will tarnish the whole image of ours that we have built up until now. It necessarily does not matter whether your social media profiles look attractive like others which are full of eye-catching pictures and videos, articles with great insight or packed with great content. What really matters is being true to yourself and sharing things that portray your genuine selves.
Following online ethics and netiquette
Being a part of a society, we follow many accepted social norms even though we are not bound to follow. Generally, it is what a good citizen does. Just like that, as a netizen, a citizen who uses the internet, we should follow online ethics and netiquette in order to be accepted among the online community. Netiquette is a combination of the words network and etiquette and is defined as a set of rules for acceptable online behavior. This includes politeness, respect and professionalism as well as factors such as proper grammar, not forwarding unnecessary content like spam emails, correct use of language, etc. Although we define netiquette as a set of rules, no one is obliged to follow those unless they want to get the disdain of people.
This is the same case when it comes to other online ethics. The internet is not some new world in which anything goes, but rather a new dimension or extension of our existing society. This is where the same standards and values play the same role online as we are accustomed to applying in our normal lives. In simple terms this means that the values society has in place against things like hate speech, bigotry, copyright violations and other forms of theft, remain intact. As do the values around courtesy, kindness, openness and treating others with the respect we wish to receive. Just as following general social norms to create a better society, each and every online personal should follow online ethics and netiquette for the betterment of the online community.
Social media is a platform where people share things freely to express their views and ideas. Most of the people do not think about the nature of their ideas when they first share it. If those posts contain things like provocative images, aggressive political comments, discriminatory views regarding gender, race or a religion, it will surely affect ones’ public image. These things will build a negative impression about you and will become a headache for you in future. Though it will not have an impact at that moment, in future it will come finding you like a boomerang. We can find more than enough incidents where wellknown personalities have apologized for their past comments and posts on social media. So, before you rush on to post anything that comes into your mind, think twice about it. Is it worth sharing? Does it hurt anyone? Will it leave a bad impression about you? Eventually being precautious will lead you up to being professional in the online world.
Establish your expertise
Managing your social media presence professionally is not all about avoiding controversy. The key here is to manage your online reputation as a product that constantly needs to be marketed in the right way. One good thing about social media is you can use it to pump your reputation online in unlimited ways. First, identify people that influence you and try to imitate them but only in good ways. This does not necessarily mean stealing their creativity. And, you should read, create, share and comment on issues that are to your interest. What this does is establish you as an expert on a relevant subject. By sharing valuable things that people appreciate, will get the attention you need wherein you can cultivate your own digital brand across online platforms. So as a conclusion, online presence is a make or break thing for every individual. You can rise to the top or fall into the deep dark corners in the online world. You should be mindful to share things that will benefit you in creating an attractive and professional online persona. The steering wheel is on your hand. You have the complete freedom and authority to build your own image. Let this be a blessing for you and try to get the best out of it by plucking the best fruit.
Exposition Magazine Issue 15
Department of Industrial Management
University of Kelaniya