Social Media Dangers

Over the last decade or so social media has given us the gift of global connectivity at our finger tips; and world has relished in it. Facebook has united us with long lost friends and family while LinkedIn has provided a platform to maintain and expand professional networks. Other sites have offered their own value propositions and each one continues to further expand their utility. But for all their good, there is danger to heed.

In certain industries, serious professionals have expressed their trepidation with social media as these sites offer a bit too much insight into one’s personal life. There is a genuine concern that certain behaviors taken out of context may come across as careless. This could potentially reflect poorly upon a person’s perceived professional demeanor. Think about it, no one really wants to see the surgeon that is removing their gallbladder in a few days, tagged at a tailgate party amongst a group of drunken, shirtless face painters. And I mean no disrespect to face painters.

Companies have long been using social media sites as credibility checks of potential candidates whom they want to hire; especially at the entry and more junior levels. In conducting such a search companies are hoping to discern an individual’s sense of judgement and maturity. I have even seen situations where human resources have used social media sites as evidence in a case against problematic employees. Keep this in mind and remember to post responsibly.

Last year, as I perused Facebook, I noticed pictures of a friend’s college-age daughter who was dressed up and ready to go out with her friends. Her outfit was extremely risqué - more so than any of the other girls in the photo. It gave me pause for an eye brow raise. I don’t consider myself to be a prude but I’m not sure posting such a picture was a good idea. Looking at it from the perspective of a hiring manager, I put her character into question. Wearing such an outfit is one thing, but posting pictures of it on social media for the world to see, is quite another.

In my book “Lose the Gum” I discuss the importance that brand has on your career. We form our brands through our actions and behaviors and our brand helps shape the way people perceive us. In business your brand is your reputation and it establishes your credibility. Ultimately, your brand is your currency.

Part of your brand includes your persona and demeanor on social media. This is especially true if your personal social media sites are linked to your professional sites because the two will inevitably conflate. Your persona on your personal site should somewhat align with your professional identity. If they don’t, the disconnect will make you seem inauthentic.

Another aspect to keep in mind when it comes to your social media brand are your political opinions. As of late, our political climate is highly charged and your views and affiliations may come in direct conflict with those of an employer or customer. Because convictions are so strong these days, you may find yourself shut out of opportunities or losing customers based on opposing ideologies. We have long been taught that the three topics you should never discuss in the office or at your place of business are politics, religion or sex. In that respect the rules of engagement have not changed and you would be wise to curtail your opinions while in the workplace. You should also be mindful of this on social media because those with whom you interact in a profession capacity may follow you on social media. Be careful and thoughtful is all I’m sayin’.

Whether or not you chose to express your political stance is one thing but your communication style is quite another. How you convey your messages is extremely important to your brand. I would even venture to say that the how is more important than the what. Many of us have watched and some have even participated in the blood bath that is taking place on social media. Civil discourse seems to have become a forgotten concept and the gloves are off. People are downright nasty. Constant participation in these types of exchanges impact your social media brand. In social settings, I frequently hear people refer to some as “that crazy one who always rants about [x].” Is that what you want your brand to be?

Social media has become an integral part of our society. It is not only how we socialize, it has also become an instrumental and sometimes critical part of how we conduct business. The latter needs to be carefully considered when engaging on social media because what began as a tool for good has also become a weapon that seeks to destroy.