Your personal brand—how the world views you—is important for career success. Your brand indicates your capabilities, skills, talent, and values. It says to potential clients or employers that you have something important to offer. In these days of Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter personal brands can be affected by your web activity in both positive and negative ways. It is important that you use these online resources effectively so you can build your brand with social media.
Social Media for Professional Use
As the name implies, social media began as a device for socializing with friends. This is reflected with Facebook’s use of the term “friend” to refer to people with whom you are connected, that is, the people who see your posts. Over time as more and more platforms came online, the uses increased. Today social media is used for job search (by employers and prospective employees), marketing of goods & services, and professional networking. Often the line between family/friends, professional colleagues, and the broader professional world is blurred. For that reason, we need to take care with what we post, as it can affect our personal brand.
There has been a growing trend for employers to conduct social media background checks to see what prospective employees post on social media. This goes beyond using social media, such as LinkedIn, to find candidates. Rather the purpose is to gather information about the sort of person an applicant might be, making inferences about their behavior or character from posts, even those that have a social purpose. In a study of such background checks Christopher Hartwell and Michael Campion surveyed 291 hiring professionals about their use of social media. The professionals noted several things people post that creates a negative impression and should be avoided including:
- Negative comments about gender, race, or religion
- Talking about using drugs
- Sharing confidential information
- Making negative comments about current or former employers
- Posting provocative photos
Build Your Brand with Social Media
Building your brand with social media begins by considering what you want that brand to be. If the goal is to build a career, you want to come across as a competent and reliable professional. The content of what you post should enhance the brand you want to create. If you post frequently about partying, for example, that will be part of your brand. If you post about major accomplishments at work, you will be seen as a serious professional.
Consider the sort of career you want. That will inform the sorts of experiences and skills that you emphasize. One approach would be to pick a particular job and then research the qualifications needed for that job. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Information Network (O*NET) would be a good place to find information relevant to the job you have in mind.
The platform that is most relevant for building your professional brand is LinkedIn. Here you can build a profile that highlights your experiences and skills. You can post content that you create yourself or link to content others created to enhance your brand. Research by Nicolas Roulin and Julia Levashina identified important aspects of a LinkedIn profile that make the best impression.
- Profile length: The more content the better, assuming that content is relevant.
- Number of connections: It is important to network on LinkedIn and build your number of connections. Your profile shows how many connections you have.
- Profile picture: It is important to have a picture of yourself. When you choose one, keep in mind the impression it might make.
- Professional Experience: Be sure to list relevant experiences and positions that say who you are as a professional.
- Skills: To a great extent your brand tells the world what you can do. Be sure to indicate your most important skills. Those skills are why someone will want to hire you.
As our lives have become increasingly virtual, it is important to keep in mind that what we post on social media reflects our image to the world. Before you post that angry tweet about your boss, or talk about something confidential, consider that it might not be just your family and friends who see it. It is safer to share private conversations and content through other means that are more private, such as e-mail or text rather than social media. Build your brand with social media by carefully choosing the content that you share with the world.
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