Wait—you posted what on social media?

Whether your social media accounts are set to private or not, everything you post can be seen by someone else. You may think it’s just your friends or family, but that’s not the case. According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers use social media to look up applying candidates, while 43% of employers use social media to keep an eye on current employees.

What does this mean? As a young professional entering the job market, I am looking for new opportunities to prove myself as a worthy candidate to employers. However, it may be possible that my personal brand on social media is telling a different story.

There are certain things that someone might post about online without thinking, such as a party with visible alcohol or something that discloses private information about another. Posts like these could be harmful to one’s personal brand and one’s chances of finding or keeping a job.

I can remember a few years back when I had just joined social media for the first time. I used to be obsessed with this certain celebrity. Then, one day I received a letter from someone who happened to have the same name as this celebrity. At the time, I thought it would be hilarious to post a picture of the letter on my Instagram pretending like I had received the letter from my idol. However, when I posted the picture online, I wasn’t thinking about the consequences of posting someone’s address online. Technically, posting someone’s address on social media is not illegal, but it’s definitely something you should think about before doing as it could end up making some people uncomfortable. It just takes one push of a button with little thought to damage your reputation or the life of someone around you.

Others Who’ve Missed the Mark on Social Media

I'm sure we all remember the story of the senior level communications professional working at a large media company who was bored one day sitting in the airport and felt like she needed more attention online. She attempted to make a funny tweet about her travels and hopefully get some more likes and comments writing, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

Just hours later, when she landed, her professional career was over. She was fired for what she posted on social media and rightfully so. This story is good for all of us as communications professionals to remember when interacting online, because things can get messy very quickly if we are not careful.

Another great example of social media blunders comes from a very well-known celebrity. In 2012, Oprah Winfrey tweeted about her partnership with Microsoft and its new Surface tablet. According to the tweet, it was her new favorite thing.

Nothing seemed wrong at first until people realized the icon had tweeted from her Apple iPad. This little error caused a lot of issues with the credibility of Oprah and the Microsoft brand. Unfortunately, social media has a lot of pitfalls just waiting to trip us up.

What This Means for Communications Professionals

Does this mean you should just delete your social media? We’re all probably safer that way, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the answer either. Employers rely on social media to form an impression about you as a person, whether good or bad and, if they don’t see anything at all, that gives a bad impression.

As I’ve started my own personal branding journey, I’ve come across a few tips and questions that are good to think about when it comes to how you portray yourself online.

First, remember that what you post is never really private. Anyone can see and judge your posts online. Second, while the content you want to post online may seem cool to you or your friends, you have to consider if it reflects the values of the company or brand you represent. And third, will this spur-of-the-moment opinion or comment hurt you or someone else if it is shared online?

If we as communications professionals can consider these issues before posting or sharing content online, we will represent ourselves and our brands much better.

Alyssa Hawkins is a senior at Texas Christian University studying Strategic Communication and minoring in Spanish. She is the Graphic Designer for the Blue Team at Roxo and is passionate about PR and visual storytelling. Her favorite pastime is watching true-crime documentaries, and her current favorite show is the Worst Roommate Ever on Netflix.

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