By Kristen Harris
Social media is everywhere. Whether it’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, social media sites are being used in a variety of ways. People build company brands and their own personal brand, communicate with family and friends, share personal interests or beliefs, champion causes, and plan business or personal events. Because you’re interacting with so many people, for such varied purposes, being aware of your online presence is critical.
Beyond the people within your immediate circle, friends-of-friends or people who are savvy with online search can often see your posts, even when they’re not a direct connection. Employers, clients, and business contacts often search potential candidates or vendors, and make judgments based on what they find. Is this discriminatory? Not necessarily. Saying something others disagree with or showing photos from your party-hearty weekend does not put you in a protected class. But it could change their view of you.
The porous nature of these sites surprises some people. Aren’t these your personal accounts, created for you to communicate with the people you’ve chosen? Yes and no. They are your accounts. But nearly anything posted online can be found, and once it’s found you can’t erase the impression it makes on someone. There are no take-backs. They saw it, and can’t un-see it.
Here are five ways to manage your online presence:
Assume it’s a public forum. Don’t say or share anything you wouldn’t put on a billboard, with your name attached. That’s the equivalent of what happens when an unintended viewer sees your post. On these sites, we interact with co-workers, friends, family, business connections, acquaintances through organizations, friends-of-friends, and more. Be aware of this massive audience when deciding what to post or share online.
Manage your image. These online sites are carefully curated peeks into a person’s life. It is NOT their whole life, just what they are comfortable sharing with the world (see point #1). The term “Facebook Envy” describes the depression some people suffer because they think their life is so bad compared to what they see from friends online. Be the person that creates a little Facebook Envy in others.
Be nice. Don’t say something online you wouldn’t say to that person’s face. Comments can easily escalate or be misinterpreted. If someone looks at your profile, you want them to think you’re a nice, reasonable, respectful person, right? Right. Behave accordingly.
Keep it interesting. Your posts are always part of someone else’s newsfeed. Share thoughts or images that are fun, interesting, informative, or inspirational. Be the post that catches the viewer’s eye, that makes them stop, as they scroll through endless comments, rants, and irrelevant ads.
Know Your Audience. Each site has a specific audience. LinkedIn is professional and career focused. Facebook is for personal connections. Twitter is a newsfeed, and Instagram is image-based. Make sure your posts fit with the focus of that site. This is NOT a free pass to say anything you want on the more personal sites (again, see point #1).
Social media sites have a variety of purposes, uses, and focuses. Being aware of the audience, both intended and unintended, helps effectively manage the online impression others get of you.