Even though social media use varies from one person to the next, anyone looking to make a good impression in today’s world should be mindful of how they present themselves online.
Each of us is familiar with the standard rules of online etiquette and knows generally to be conscious of what we post. However we often forget the simpler, more insidious social media mistakes that we might not realize are hurting our job prospects and even relationships with our current colleagues.
1. Ranting about your job or a fellow employee on social media
You’d think this would be a no-brainer, but I’ve seen people do a lot of damage in a single Instagram post or status update that they couldn't take back. A public rant might feel like a great way to blow off some steam in the heat of the moment, but as some people have learned, this can be a surefire route to unemployment.
I once saw a colleague post a Facebook status expressing their discontent with the dollar amount on their most recent paycheck, going so far as to name the organization we were both working for in the post. It seemed to slip their mind that they were Facebook friends with other employees of the company, and it quickly became an uncomfortable, and much joked about topic at work.
Issues like this one might be worth taking up with your company directly, but please, don’t post about them on social media. If you absolutely can’t help yourself, at least don’t refer to your employer or colleague by their name.
Going forward, assume everything you post on social media will be seen by someone at your workplace. If you’re not comfortable with your colleagues or boss seeing something, don’t post it.
2. Leaving your LinkedIn summary blank
LinkedIn is one of the most common tools for finding and connecting with other people in business. Your profile summary is essentially the front page of your personal brand for anyone who stumbles across your profile.
Right off the bat, it’s a great way for someone to get a quick sense of not only what you’ve been up to in your career so far, but also what you’re like as a person. It’s like a digital cover letter in that you can elaborate on your work experience and include some personality. The strength of your summary might even determine whether a reader keeps scrolling.
By leaving your summary blank, you could also be missing a great opportunity to provide additional context about some aspect of your resume that needs it. For example, if your background is in finance but you’d like to one day be a food critic, your summary is a good place to make that transition a bit more clear.
The summary is also a great place to highlight your biggest accomplishments and explain what you’re all about, since readers are pretty likely to read your summary in depth and then have nothing more than a glance at the rest of your profile. Once you’ve written yourself a good summary, make sure to see the next tip.
3. Not having a friend give you constructive feedback
We spend a lot of time looking at our own profiles and don’t necessarily see them as a prospective employer would. We all know that tone is sometimes harder to gauge in online interactions, and maybe your tweets come across a bit edgier than you intend them to. The only real way to find out is through external feedback.
Grab a trusted friend and get them to take a look at your public profiles, especially LinkedIn. Is there something that sounds awkward in your summary? Does the joke in your Twitter bio not make sense to anyone except you? Have them confirm whether you’re appearing the way you would like to strangers, and if what you mean to represent actually comes through.
An outsider is also more likely to catch something you missed. If you’re looking to get a job at a tech company, for instance, but forget to include some mention of technology on your resume, you could be missing out on appearing in relevant search results. Sometimes we spend so much time on something that our closeness causes us to miss the obvious.
Feedback can even help you catch silly mistakes or grammatical errors. I had a typo on my LinkedIn profile for half a year that I didn’t notice until a close friend pointed it out.
4. Losing touch with a great colleague or mentor
Connecting with colleagues or mentors online is very common on sites like LinkedIn, and arguably less so on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. No matter where you’ve decided to follow people from work online, don’t take those connections for granted.
This rule is true of your friends as well as your colleagues, but if there’s someone whose company you enjoy and whom you’d like to be able to work with further down the road, don’t go silent on them. You might need their advice or a reference at some point later in your career, and if you’ve been MIA for a long time, it’ll seem like you’re just using them.
Social media can only reach its full potential if people genuinely use it to socialize. At the very least, give your connections a like or a comment occasionally to let them know you still exist. Even better, set up a lunch or coffee date every once in a while to catch up.
It’s also a good idea to be aware of what your connections are interested in so that you can make yourself useful every now and then. If a senior colleague is always posting about technology trends, you’ll know where to forward that next virtual reality article you come across. The more you nurture your connections, the stronger they become.
5. Having no social media presence whatsoever
Not everyone is cool with sharing every thought and meal on social media… and that’s okay! Some people have responded to today’s landscape of constant connectivity, however, by being ghostlike online. That might not be the best idea if you’re looking for a new job opportunity.
At a previous job, my boss was looking to fill a role that had just opened up. The applications started to pour in quickly, and because the role needed to be hired within the week, the pressure was definitely on. My boss started googling each candidate to find additional information that would help him make his decision.
When he couldn’t find a single photo of the candidate online, he recycled their resume. At first, I found this horrifying, but I came to realize why his actions actually made a lot of sense. In this day and age, it’s unusual for someone to be completely absent from the web.
Just like you’d be suspicious if someone did this in an online dating situation, an employer might wonder why you’ve made yourself so hard to find. Most jobs these days also require some level of technical competency, and having a solid profile is a good start. At the very least, make sure you have a LinkedIn headshot. Profiles without them are far less likely to be checked out by someone browsing the site.
What social media mistakes have you seen? Or made yourself? Leave them in the comments.
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