Social media is a great way to keep in contact with friends, share our interests and make new connections. But, every once in while, we run the risk of sharing too much. We all know that employers and college admissions officers often look at Facebook and Google to learn about potential employees and students. But other types of social media like Pinterest and your old blog from high school can also affect the way you’re perceived too. Here’s your guide to preventing common social media slip-ups, and how to fix them if they do happen.
5 Social Media Slip-Ups & How to Fix Them
The Slip-Up: TMI on Twitter
Twitter can be a fun way to share your thoughts on a myriad of topics—and sometimes it’s easy to forget that more than your inner circle is reading your tweets. Many collegiettes include their Twitter account as a link from their LinkedIn profile. “If I’m an employer, if I go into a professional site, like a LinkedIn profile, if you have a link to your twitter account, I assume you want me to see it,” says Diana Reeves, senior associate director of the career center at Johns Hopkins University. “Don’t link something that’s going to be personal to a professional part of your image.” In other words, if you link your account to LinkedIn or use public settings, assume that anyone and everyone is reading what you write. So details about your love life, obsession with Ryan Gosling and your lousy day at work? All big no-nos.
Let’s say your boss or potential employer comments to you about a too-intimate or unprofessional tweet. Don’t freak out. Have a damage control strategy ready. “Take a positive attitude that your employer is concerned about your professional well-being,” Reeves says. “Tell them you’ll make sure you will take care of it because you don’t want to reflect poorly on the organization. Don’t get defensive and don’t say it’s no big deal. Listen to them, address it, and then go from there.”
Reeves acknowledges that many students, especially those with PR, marketing and media aspirations, are encouraged to keep professional Twitter accounts. Keep your tweets interesting and concise, and follow the major players of your industry. Or, at the very least, keep your Twitter account private if you just want to use it socially. Do this by going to your account settings and changing your tweet privacy settings—then you can protect your tweets from individual followers.
If you haven’t been called out on inappropriate tweet but want to take preventative measures, you can delete tweets by hovering over the text and clicking delete when prompted. Unfortunately, you have to delete each one individually. And remember—if you use Twitter more personally than professionally, just don’t link to it on your LinkedIn.
The Slip-Up: Public settings on Facebook
It feels like every other week the Facebook team switches their security policies. One day you’re super private, and the next thing you know, thousands of people have access to your party pictures from last weekend. And that shot of you winning beer pong? Let’s just say your boss won’t find the feat nearly as impressive.
“Every quarter, check your privacy settings because they change often,” Reeves says. She also recommends asking an adult or friend you trust to look for you on Google. Often, Google photo searches will bring up Facebook pictures even if your account is private. Also, be wary of “liking” potential employers on Facebook. Liking something often gives the person who runs the fan page more access into your account than you would like. Stay safe and create an account solely for your professional life if you want to “like” companies.
Has your employer already seen a slightly incriminating picture? “If they confront that, act surprised. Reiterate and say ‘thank you for letting me know this because that’s not the image I want to show. I will rectify this immediately’ and just go back to why this job is important to you,” Reeves says.
Reeves also notes that the way you deal with these situations sheds light on how you’ll operate in the workplace. “This gives an employer insight as to how you would look if you were confronted with something in the workplace. If you’re [owning up to your mistake], they assume that’s how you’ll do it in the future.”
One last note to be aware of: “If you ever plan to apply for a job that requires security clearance, your profile can still be seen. Look at things that you like or join, since they reflect who you are as a person,” Reeves says.
An easy way to check your profile visibility is to go to the option under your cover photo that says “view as.” You can view your profile as a specific person or even the general public to get an idea of what information is visible. When in doubt, Reeves recommends setting all of your privacy settings to Friends only.
The Slip-Up: Pinterest or Tumblr addiction
It’s OK to admit it: you have practically 30 boards on Pinterest dedicated to all of your passions: shoes, vegan recipes and your future wedding. Or you have an extensive Tumblr dedicated to one of these obsessions. Do employers care?
Reeves says this is less of a slip-up, and more something just to be aware of. “I honestly don’t know if employers would care. As long as it’s not something that seems off,” she says. So a board dedicated to alcohol or drugs or sex? Not cool. Even if your board is just an homage to J.Crew, Pinterest is still very personal and not necessarily something you’d want to look through with your boss.
While your extensive Tumblr and Pinterest accounts probably won’t make or break you in the eyes of an employer, it’s still a good idea to be aware of your online presence.
So if you’re afraid your Pinterest dream wedding board is going to distract employers from your pristine resume on LinkedIn, Reeves recommends keeping your Pinterest off LinkedIn or anywhere else that would enable employers to find it easily. You could also make sure your username isn’t your actual name, which will make it even harder to connect the account to you.
The Slip-Up: That blog you kept in high school
Whether you wrote an angsty, insomnia-driven web journal or a political blog for your AP US Government class, chances are your high school persona is still alive and well on the web. Even if the site is not controversial or personal, anything that doesn’t represent who you are right now isn’t worth keeping up on the Internet.
“Go back to the blog and see how it comes up on Google search,” Reeves says. Often employers don’t have enough time to look through 20 pages of Google search results. Reeves says a good rule of thumb is to make sure the first page is impeccable, and the next four pages as clean as possible. So if that blog comes up as one of the first search results, you may want to push it back.
“Depending on how tech savvy you are, Google will let you input code so [your blog] doesn’t show up on Google searches. If not, Blogger and Wordpress can limit who can search and find it. There’s always the ‘get rid of it option.’ Get it as far [back on Google] as you can. Have other things that will show up. Maybe start another blog that accurately show you where you are professionally,” Reeves says. Delete your old MySpace and Livejournal accounts and if you forgot the password, go through the process of requesting a new one.
The Slip-Up: Your friends’ Facebook profile settings
Here’s one you might not have total control over: in some cases, it might not be just your Facebook profile that matters. It could be your friends’ too. Oftentimes, even if you have tight security settings, your friends might not, which means people can still see pictures of you. Remember: your security settings only apply to you. So if you’re the star of your best friend’s party picture album, these pictures might be accessible to others.
Reeves recommends searching for yourself often on Google to see if pictures from your friends’ pages come up. If they do, it’s likely their security is lacking. Talk to your friends if it bothers you, and promise to return the favor if you ever have incriminating pictures of them. Just tell her you’re concerned about your boss finding them—most likely, she’ll be glad you told her! If you’re worried about random people you’re not really friends with posting pictures of you, go to your privacy settings and turn on the feature where you have to approve tags before friends can post pictures of you. And remember, employers usually don’t have time to spend hours creeping on every inch of your friends’ Facebook pages.
While there are plenty of ways to overshare, social media is also a great way to interact with employers and connect with them. So just be smart, avoid these slip-ups and show your potential employers and bosses how awesome you are in person—not just in the internet.
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