Social media is the new résumé. In many ways, it’s even better than a résumé – a person’s social media stream can reveal attitudes, biases, and deficiencies that wouldn’t dare appear on a résumé. Your online thoughts – blogs, Instagram pictures, tweets on Twitter, posts on Facebook, among others – help to make up the digital you, which friends and strangers alike will use to assess who you are and what you can contribute. The things you share on social media become part of who you are.
Even more importantly, there’s a permanence to social media content that requires us to pay special attention to anything posted on the Internet. There’s no Undo on the Send button; once you publish something to the Internet, it can be there forever. Remember that potential clients and employers will most likely review your social media activities before making a hiring decision; in fact, a recent survey of human resources personnel revealed that over 90% of respondents looked to social media when checking out a candidate. Even if you’re not looking for a job, consider that what you post today may still be around for years afterward. Sure, you can edit or delete content or restrict its privacy settings, but have you read the terms of service for the medium on which you’re sharing that information? In some cases, content you share online may be used in ways you don’t expect, according to the provider’s terms of service. The bottom line is that privacy settings and deletion won’t necessarily keep your content private, so think twice before posting angry rants or NSFW after-hours photos.
With that, here are a few basic rules I try to follow when posting to social media.
Six tips for social media success
Don’t write anything in the heat of the moment, especially if you’re hurt or angry. Intense emotion often leaves logic behind, and those types of posts tend to be the ones you regret. If you routinely find yourself posting to social media and later editing or deleting those posts, you might have a problem with this. Things posted on social media can have a long life span, even when the original media is deleted. The few minutes of satisfaction you get from sharing that angry tweet, Facebook post, or blog post might cost you years of embarrassment. Take an hour and walk around the block before you post in an emotional state.
Find your pace. Everyone has their own speed at which they share on social media. Some will write a new blog post almost daily, while others do so just once or twice a month. There are folks who post to Twitter a dozen times each day. These are all acceptable, but the most important thing to remember is to be consistent. Don’t publish a dozen blog posts in January and then stop blogging for the year. Your audience, however larger or small, will follow you in part because of your volume and velocity. Find a pace that you’re comfortable with, and most importantly, that is sustainable for the year. The right scheduling tool can help with this, especially when the amount of time you have to devote to social media can vary from week to week. (As a sidebar, I use HootSuite, though it’s just one of many such tools available, many of which are free.)
Check ur grammar. I’ll admit it – I’m dogmatic when it comes to proper grammar and spelling, and I evaluate the quality of social media entries based in part on those criteria. If your posts are littered with misspellings and grammatical errors, you could end up being passed over for a job or a gig. It’s a fact that some folks are simply more attentive to this than others, so if you struggle with spelling and grammar, find a trusted adviser to proofread your posts (especially longer and more permanent compositions, such as web articles and blog posts).
Rid yourself of negative influence. The things you read will affect how you write, and negativity breeds negativity. You know the type – the blogger who complains about everything, the person on Facebook who’s all about drama, or the Twitter follower who’s always posting in anger. I exercised a social media purge recently, either hiding or completely removing some folks who were constantly angry and negative. Following people who post a constant stream of bile will almost certainly affect your mood and attitude, and is an unnecessary distraction. Don’t disengage from someone over one online rant, but if they demonstrate a pattern of this behavior, cut ‘em off.
Have conversations. Your social media presence can be advertisement, an online résumé, and a series of conversations. Don’t neglect the last one! You don’t want to be known as someone who simply broadcasts without listening. The more you establish yourself as an expert on a topic, the more folks will want to chat with you, whether it’s to ask for advice, share an idea, or simply to get to know you. While you don’t have to engage with everyone who reaches out to you (see the prior bullet), it’s usually best to err on the side of openness.
Last and most importantly, be you. Don’t look to mimic someone else’s blog posts, tweets, or Facebook activity. Your followers will read what you write because it’s yours, not because it resembles that of someone else in the community. In fact, being different is a good way to gain even more followers; if you’re writing about things few other people are writing about, or if you’re approaching it on a level or from a perspective others aren’t, you’re likely to be different enough from the crowd that people will seek out your content.
Everyone uses social media differently, and each of us will have our own set of internal guidelines on what to post. Just remember that your social media stream becomes an extension of, and a window into, your personality. Take care in what you share, pace yourself, and be accessible.