Wait – do all these commonly accepted “truths” about LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook etc. apply to everyone?
Or does it really depend upon how you use social media?
We know social media can be an incredible force for success, because of stats like these:
- 79% of job seekers now use social media in their search, while an even bigger 94% recruiters use it.
- Company spending on social media tripled in 2016, according to Forbes – suggesting it really works for business.
- The LinkedIn network has connected 476 million professionals worldwide, and had 3 million active job listings in April 2017.
- Some of the world’s biggest stars, like Adele and Justin Bieber, started out on social media.
But we also know, and have probably laughed at, the horror stories.
The “accidental” photo shares. The offensive or bizarre tweets that lead to immediate termination (for most offenders, anyway). The Facebook brags about acts of gross misconduct, which end up in the boss’s newsfeed. Or the scathing blog posts by employees who soon find they no longer need to complain – because they got fired for trashing their employer.
So yes, social media is worth your time. But it’s also a minefield.
Put one foot wrong and you’re out of a job.
Below are the 6 most dangerous ways you can screw up on social media – along with some helpful advice about how to avoid them.
Read on to protect yourself and your career from accidental self-sabotage. You’ll thank us later.
1. Complaining about your job, boss or employerSocial media post forms often ask us for our innermost thoughts. “What’s on your mind?” asks Facebook. “What’s happening?” asks Twitter. That doesn't mean you actually tell them – especially if what’s on your mind is that you hate your job!
- Social media is a public forum, and your boss could easily see what you write
- There are much better ways to address problems at work, like raising issues with your line manager or looking for a new job
- The things you write in social media now might still be searchable for years to come, so they could affect your future employability
The simple rule is – DON’T write negative things about your employer on social media!
2. Using ‘edgy’ humourFacebook and Twitter are full of witty reactions, funny GIFs, and outrageous comment. It’s often fun, and it’s how people stay in touch with their friends. So, it’s perfectly acceptable to join in… isn’t it?
Well, if your posts are public and your profile identifies you to your employee, the answer is NO!
What is funny between friends can easily be offensive to others, minus the context that only you and your group understand.
Keep your Twitter and Facebook professional. If you must share edgy humour online - or, in fact, if you have controversial views on anything - think carefully before you post and always use a personal, non-work email address. Better safe than sorry!
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3. Sharing your wild nights outThis social media mistake is another dangerous mix of professional and personal social media. It’s natural want to use your Facebook and Twitter accounts to share some funny photos with your friends. But when those photos show you:
- Holding or drinking alcohol
- Getting up to drunken antics
- In any state of undress or dishevelment
…This is not going to help your career!
You need to keep this potentially embarrassing material inside private channels, like email, WhatsApp, or texts. Try not to mix your personal life with professional social media use.
Or in other words, as Ghostbusters’ Egon Spengler once said, “Don’t cross the streams!”
4. Using ‘text’ languageEven on a big iPad, typing out text messages is kind of a pain. So, it’s no wonder that text language has become commonplace. When texting a friend, it’s perfectly acceptable to type something like “Srsly m8? Lol ;D”.
It’s also tempting to you use shortened text language on Twitter, since you only have 140 characters at your disposal for each tweet.
Problems arise when you lose sight of the line between texting friends, and presenting yourself as a professional on social media.
You may think you’re tweeting to your close friends, and that it’s okay to use text speak. But remember – everything on Twitter is public (apart from direct messages).
So, when you next apply for a job, there’s a good chance the recruiter will look up your social media accounts. And they might draw the conclusion that you can barely write a sentence.
Use the best English you can in your social media posts!
5. Complaining about customersEveryone has bad days at work. And everyone has to deal with a difficult or rude customer now and again.
These are stressful moments. The best way to vent your frustrations is often to tell a close personal friend, in private, about what happened. As with any problem, talking helps.
However, talking about it on social media WON’T help!
When you complain about customers online, it reflects badly on you and your employer. It’s disrespectful to the customer, who probably has their own side of the story.
There’s also a good chance your boss or the customer could see your post – which could be considered an act of gross misconduct.
So, while it’s good to get stressful work experiences off your chest, make sure you do it privately and in confidence. Never on social media!
6. Stealing others’ wit and creativityThis one happens all too often during Twitter trends. And when smart employers see it, they will think you’re a real clown.
Social media has made it very easy to re-share content made by other people. In most cases, sharing a post automatically credits the original creator.
But that isn’t good enough for some social media users. They want the credit for themselves, because they think it will make them look witty, or win them more likes and followers.
So they copy a joke, or a funny GIF, or an article. They post it as if they created it themselves. And they think, because the Internet is such a huge place, that nobody will ever know.
But the truth is, plagiarism is easy to spot. And it will make you look lazy, stupid and lacking moral fibre.
Don’t do it. Always be your best, most professional self on social media.
How to easily avoid all these mistakesThe common advice that applies to all 6 of these social media mistakes is:
- Don’t post personal, sensitive and compromising material on social media. Use private email and messaging channels instead.
- Always remember that while social media is a convenient way to talk to friends, your posts can be seen by employers too.
- Your behaviour on social media can seriously damage your career, so maintain a baseline of professionalism at all times.
Keep these three simple rules in mind and you’ll be just fine.
If you're at all worried about your ability to communicate, and what will help you at work and what won't, why not sign up for one of our communication skills courses? And if you’re applying for a job soon, we wish you the best of luck!