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.
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.