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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Control Your Professional Social Networking Image

The advent of social media is changing the way we communicate. Research shows that 43% of Internet users now use social networking sites, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. Compared to just 27% of Internet users in 2008, it looks as though the phenomenon is not only here to stay, but growing quickly.

So what does this mean to you? You need to learn to manage your professional on-line image. If you are not among the social network users, use this information as a reference when and if you do decide to join the ranks. If you are a social network user, seriously consider what is out there, who sees it and how you can manage it.

  • Do a search of your name on the major search engines.
    This will give you a place of reference to see what is out on the Web with your name attached. Note what web sites, networking sites and other files and pictures are associated with your name.
  • Clean-up information that you can access.
    Take out inappropriate photographs or information. Review personal information you have disclosed...make sure it is clean, appropriate and overall unoffensive. Consider what personal blogs, connections and web sites you link to - if they are questionable, what does that say about you as a professional?
  • Be selective in join groups.
    There are groups for every walk of life on the social media networking sites. They run the gamut from charitable organizations and professional groups to fun and absolutely silly. If you are trying to manage an on-line profile, only join groups that leave others with a good impression of your professional objectives, social involvements and professional interests.

  • Learn to use all the privacy tools available.
    Most of the social networking sites have privacy controls associated with your account. Learn to use them. Don't forget that others can see your connections, groups and photos if you don't set your profile settings carefully. Monitor comments, links and posts to your profile. Make sure that your public profile only shows things you would want your boss or a potential employer to know about you.

  • Use good communication skills.
    Make sure you are using correct grammar, spelling and punctuation. Keep your comments, posts and entries free from profanity and inappropriate references. Don't bad-mouth others or past/current employers.

With more and more people using the Internet, as a professional it becomes that much more important to take a pro-active approach to managing your on-line image. You should care what a potential client, customer or employer will see when they look for information about you. It can easily make-or-break their decision to contact you. As an example, a survey by CareerBuilder.com in June 2009 found that 45% of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates (and that is up from 27% just last year). That alone should tell you that these social media sites are gaining ground from the professional community as a valid tool to learn about you.

Social networking is your opportunity to take advantage of an incredible resource...so be sure you are conveying a professional image and emphasizing your qualifications and skills. So use the steps above as a place to start controlling the image you have on social networking sites.

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