Avoid these mistakes: How to use social media as a professional

Written by James on May 20, 2021

Woman Using Social Media on Her Laptop

In 2021, our online presence continues to intersect with our professional lives. So how is it that there seems to be a constant flow of news stories of people getting fired for less-than-ideal social media postings?

Some seem like a clear invitation to be dismissed, like posting about how much you hate your job or the Mandalorian star who posted racially-charged and historically inaccurate tweets during last year’s election cycle. Some, however, can be an innocent mistake, like the junior ad executive who was so excited by a winning pitch that she posted an Instagram that clearly betrayed her agency’s confidentiality guidelines, leading to immediate termination. Whoops.

While the effect of social media on our careers is nuanced, understanding its effects is a great first step to cultivating a positive and professional online footprint.

Negative Professional Effects of Social Media

Affecting Hiring Decisions

According to studies, 90% of employers consider an applicant’s social media activity during the hiring process, and 54% have eliminated a candidate based on social media. This isn’t an immediate reason to panic, but it is worth examining your past online activity for anything that could be perceived as inappropriate, discriminatory, or even just an overshare. Yes, those photos from college parties may be examined by a potential employer.

Violating Company Policy

Like the aforementioned blunder about sharing company information on Instagram, your employer may have policies applying to LinkedIn references or general codes of conduct. While your personal social media may seem to not intersect with your professional sphere, it should always be assumed that whatever you post could be scrutinized by your employer. Perhaps take a pause before adding all your co-workers on Facebook, too.

Searching For Work, From Work

It is becoming increasingly common for employers to bar access to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, though it is more likely you’ll still have access to LinkedIn. When perusing professional networking sites or even job boards (especially on a work computer) be conscious that your employer may have access to this activity. A good rule of thumb is that when on company time, use these services to further the business rather than your personal career.

Positive Professional Effects of Social Media

Boost Your Career

There is no doubt that social media, when utilized effectively, can be a source of creative inspiration, personal expression and meaningful networking. Connecting with other professionals in your industry on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter can be an excellent way to share your successes and catch the eye of someone who could advance your career.

Connect With Recruiters

It is becoming ever more common for recruiters to turn to social media to find potential candidates, post job openings and expand their network. If used correctly, social media can be an excellent tool to communicate a multifaceted and engaging professional persona. The flip side of social media negatively affecting hiring decisions is that it can be the reason you are actually hired.

Cultivate A Well-Rounded Image

You know that you are more than just your job, and employers know it too. Part of creating a dynamic and effective work culture is hiring people that have more to offer than what is strictly listed in the job description. Social media can be a great way to express your interest in hobbies, sports or culture, and you never know: maybe your future boss supports that football team, too.

How To Use Social Media To Your Advantage

With the revolving door of social media horror stories, it may be tempting to just delete your accounts. Becoming an online “ghost,” however, may not be the answer. Instead, here are our top tips to effectively manage your online presence to have a positive impact on your career:

Think It Through

Taking an extra moment to consider whether a post is beneficial is always a good idea. Practice reading through your social media pages as an employer, and be aware of using personal accounts on company time. If in doubt, err on the side of caution.

Keep It Private

While some social media presence is definitely a good idea, platforms such as Instagram and Facebook could be a good idea to keep private. There is no need for your coworkers to see what you had for Sunday breakfast, and in the long term you will likely cherish the privacy.

Review Your Old Posts

As social media use has changed over the years, professionals who are levelling-up in their careers should take the time to revisit social media profiles from a decade ago. Now is the time to tidy up old photo albums or tweets from college, for as the news keeps proving, they could come back to haunt you. Using a streamlined service such as yourself.online can take the hassle and guesswork out of cleaning up your online presence, and allow you to use social media as a tool to advance your career. Get started today and scan your accounts for free.