Social Media: better known as Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, My Space etc by most of us.  Are you using it?   What about flickr or you tube?

ChancSocial networking iconses are good that most of you are using at least one of the ones I’ve mentioned.  But are you being smart about it?

I’ll be blunt… given some of the behavior I’ve seen over the last few weeks, odds are good that you’re not being as smart about it as you could be, which is what brought me to write this.  This is not a post about how to use Social Media to improve your business or  your networking – I’ll save that for another day.  This is a post on what not to do with social media.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have used poor judgment on occasion – it’s very easy to do.  However, if you fall into any of the following categories, there are some things you should remember and avoid when using any social networking sites:

  • you own a business
  • you work for a business
  • you one day hope to work for or own a business
  • you are job hunting
  • there is even a remote possibility that you may be job hunting anytime in the future, ever.
  • you volunteer or hope to volunteer for an organization

More and more companies, organizations and potential clients are starting to google potential service providers and potential or current employees.  And with sites like Facebook and Twitter opening up their databases to search engines, what you do on those sites is becoming easier and easier to find.  Even without google, it doesn’t take much effort to search for a person directly on these sites.  If you are on the internet, you can be found and anything you put out there, stays out there.

what not to do

  • don’t disclose company business unless you are authorized to do so.  It’s not yours to share and if you are unsure, check your company’s social media guidelines.  I recently saw somebody I follow on Twitter announce to the world that an employee at their firm was being laid off… prior to it actually happening.
  • don’t make disparaging remarks about your employees, coworkers or employer
  • don’t criticize the company you work for
  • don’t criticize your competitors

Basically, behave like a professional at all times when you are on-line.  Twitter is very public but  Facebook allows you to control how public you make most aspects of your profile.  Be familiar with the privacy controls and learn how to use them.  Be warned, not all of these sites are good at informing you of privacy changes so it’s a good idea to check them out every couple of months.

photos

Use an appropriate profile picture on Twitter.  Most people do because they are aware that Twitter is very public.  But the same advice follows for Facebook.  While you can lock down access to your photo albums (and you should definitely do this), your profile picture is public (I believe you can hide it but the vast majority of people don’t).  So remember that even if you make your whole profile private, your profile picture will still show to anyone who looks for you.  Don’t do the following:

  • use pictures of yourself in any state of intoxication, with a lampshade over your head or even holding a drink
  • use photos of yourself in various stages of undress
  • use photos of yourself holding any kind of weapon
  • use photos of yourself making obscene gestures

In a nutshell, don’t use any photo that you would not want a potential employer or client to see.

If you want to post photos of yourself at that party last weekend, put them in a private album and make sure only the people you want to see them can.  If you are going to tag photos of your friends, do them a favour and make sure that they’re ok with it or that it’s not public for the world to see.  Don’t post on friends’ walls unless they keep their profiles private – and even then think twice about what you say.  You don’t know who they have on their friends list.  If there is one thing I have learned in this life, it’s that it’s a very small world and you don’t get a second opportunity to make a first impression.

Nobody is a saint and everyone is entitled to kick back and have some fun now and then – but use judgment before you broadcast things to the entire world, which is essentially what you are doing when you post anything on-line.