There is no question that social media has the power to do great good for billions of people around the world, on both a personal and professional level.  However, at the same time, social media can act as the proverbial loaded gun that can bring your world crashing down around you at any one time in several ways.

We are not going to start pointing out how to manage your personal life on your social timelines; that is frankly none of our business and the likelihood is that the advice you might need would be a lot more complex than we could offer anyway. However, managing your social streams with your career in mind is something we know a thing or two about, so we have put together this easy to understand and action guide.

Believe the Horror Stories

Some of the stuff you read and hear about social media is really pushing the boundaries of fiction sometimes, and are very hard to believe. However, if you have heard a horror story from a friend or colleague about someone they know who did not get a job or even lost theirs thanks to something social media related, you would do well to sit up and take notice.

Do we have your attention yet?

What the Figures Say

The research we conducted resulting in graph above tells us the following:

  • 37% of company bosses at all levels have checked their reports’ social media accounts for a variety of reasons
  • 8% of these had sacked someone as a result of something found on a social media account
  • 56% said that they or their company screens applicants on social media
  • 20% admitted that what they had found on social media had been the determining factor in rejecting an application on at least one occasion

Your immediate superior, or someone within the company you work for, could well be monitoring what you say and do through the medium of social media.

Always Being Vigilant

The results also show us that people are always judging us on social media, and that a jobseeker cannot afford to get their online activities in order just to revert to their usual, perhaps unpalatable selves once they receive a job offer or turn up on their first day.

Most companies of all sizes will have some sort of social media policy with a range of guidelines, do’s and don’ts that they expect you to adhere to at all times.

This can get too much for some people, who will either leave social media altogether, or take the opposite approach of “I do not care what people see” and quickly end up unemployed and unemployable. Most of what you need to do to stop social media ruining your career is common sense, and should not be a million miles away from what you do anyway if you are a decent human being.

What can you do to avoid becoming another social media horror story?

Learn How to Self-Censor Yourself

Anyone who has used social media has posted something only to regret it later at some point in their lives. Sometimes this passes off as harmless, but it only takes one person to take a screenshot, or the wrong person to see it, and you have dug yourself a hole that you will struggle to escape.

The chart below, with research courtesy of Pew Research Center, details the percentage of social media users who had carried out four specific actions.

The fact that only 11% of people regret what they post, in comparison to the other high numbers, is telling, for it shows us that many social media users consider their content, even if it does not actually make them feel bad in themselves.

Strangely, self-censorship is the most straightforward thing to do, but the one that leads to the most problems through failing to do it. We understand you probably do not want to come across as bland or boring online, but you can be informative and engage in conversations expressing your opinion without doing any harm to your professional prospects.

The best approach to take is that anything that you should leave anything that could be misconstrued or seen to be controversial offline for discussion during a private conversation with friends.

Control Your Audience

One great feature of social media is that you can control who and who does not see all or a particular portion of your content. This means you can make particular photos private or prevent anyone who does not know you personally viewing what you have been saying online, for example.

We cannot stress enough how important it is that you are certain of your privacy settings, whatever social network you use, before you start posting content that you might only want a select audience to be able to see.

What Does a Private Profile Say About Me?

It is easy to worry that a private profile might make it look like you have something to hide. However, with the increase in cyber-crime and identity theft being well documented a large percentage of people favour their social media profiles being private.

You can rest assured that with 61% of people around the world favouring a completely private profile, even when almost every social network recommends having a public one for visibility, that a recruitment coordinator or your boss is not going to hold it against you.

Of course, if you are pleased with what you have to say on social media and think that, if anything, your content is an asset as it shows off both your knowledge and who you are as a person, then make your profile public for anyone who might look to see.

Delete Inactive Accounts

How many of you remember using an old-school social media platform such as Bebo or MySpace back in the day, or perhaps even having a Yahoo! or MSN Group that you administrated during your teenage angst years?

It is likely that you had forgot all about these, but there is always a chance that they might have something on them that could have a negative influence on your career. If someone Google’s your name they are unlikely to spend too much time investigating when you said something and the circumstances behind it, your words alone will damn you.

You might have an inactive account on one of the current big social networks.  If you do you are not alone, but again it is worth deleting for good.

While different social networks define ‘inactive’ differently, the message is the same.  Do you really want the handful of Tweets you posted before becoming one of the 83% four years ago to be held against you in 2013?

Delve deep into Google’s results pages, too, to ensure that you have removed anything that could be harmful. If you have closed a social account and you can still see it in search results, you can contact Google to remove the deleted page from those results.

Focus on Great Content

You will almost certainly go through your social media profile and delete some content, but remember that you should not just be focussing on what you believe a recruiter wants to see. This should not be an exercise in making yourself appear like a corporate robot, but rather just removing the controversial and offensive stuff.

Recruitment coordinators and managers say that personality is as important as technical knowledge and experience when it comes to making a decision. If you have your personality on show and some witty musings on your social profile, this will be much better than seeming like someone obsessed with their job. In fact, the latter might even look like a contrived attempt to influence the recruitment process, so it is best to steer clear.

Search Out New Platforms

Emerging social platforms, such as Enthuse, are great for highlighting the best of yourself online, bringing together your personal and professional experiences and being informative without giving too much away about either.

Using such a platform, you could then place your account URL onto your CV or online application. Rather than controlling your audience, you are taking the lead and showing them the best of you, what you want them to see, without them having to go looking for it themselves.

Don’t Forget to Work!

For everyone who has been the subject of a disciplinary process at work because of something they should not have said, or thanks to the photo of them dancing on tables the night before they called in sick, others fall foul of their boss because they always have the Twitter or Facebook window open on their screen while at work. Do not be the person in the office who becomes notorious for updating their social profile more than the spreadsheet of figures for an important client!

Bottom line; social media will only ruin your career if you allow it to. Thankfully, you are in full control.

Featured images:
  •  License: Image author owned
  •  License: Image author owned
  •  License: Image author owned
  •  License: Image author owned

Robert is a social media expert and was one of the first people to try out the new social media platform at enthuse.me, and believes that the platform will become the standard in modern social networking in the years ahead.