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By Dr. Samantha Bietsch
Faculty Member, School of Business, American Public University
If you are like the rest of the 79% of Americans on social media sites, you likely notice there is a lot of information out there on your friends, family, businesses and even complete strangers.
Social media has many positive aspects. It allows you to catch up with people who live out of town and follow your favorite news sources in a timely fashion. It is one of the best engagement tools we have to offer in the business world.
But one thing we need to keep in mind as we are engaging, browsing, uploading and posting is that our profile (or profiles if you are on multiple sites), is useful for creating a personal brand.
Companies Investigate Your Personal Branding on Social Media Sites
Personal branding in itself is nothing new; however, your social media brand is something that someone can research without your knowledge. As we research companies and post information online, they are now researching us and our personal branding as well.
Jacquelyn Smith of Forbes notes, “That’s probably why half of all job seekers are active on social networking sites on a daily basis, and more than a third of all employers utilize these sites in their hiring process.”
What makes personal branding from a social media standpoint even more intimidating is that social media only shows a mere snapshot of your life. These “snapshots” of your life can portray you in ways that are not always accurate, creating a personal brand that you may not agree with. As a result, employers may draw the wrong conclusion about you from what they see.
For example, a profile picture of you enjoying a glass of wine may portray you as an avid drinker or partier. The reality of it may be quite far from the truth.
Similarly, that political comment you once made on a news article years ago may make you appear to be judgmental, aggressive or angry.
If you’re interviewing for a job, your social media sites could be the difference between a job offer on the table and your competition getting the offer. Smith notes, “A third (34%) of employers who scan social media profiles said they have found content that has caused them not to hire the candidate.”
Always Use Caution When Posting Content Online
In the professional world, many of us understand that we must be careful of what we upload and comment on. Many students who I have engaged with understand that a “private profile” on a social media site is a must.
Your personal branding may be limited to profile pictures or comments made on public stories, but it doesn’t hurt to do a quick search of your name to see what shows up. Does your profile picture contain alcohol? Is your attire appropriate? If your online content is inappropriate, then change it, take it down or make it private if possible.
Knowing that many employers review our profiles prior to interviewing us can lead to utilizing these social media sites in a way that best showcases our talents as well. Smith says, “The CareerBuilder survey revealed that 29% of surveyed hiring managers found something positive on a profile that drove them to offer the candidate a job.”
What type of positive qualities can you showcase on your social media sites? If you are in an artistic field like graphic design or photography, ensure you showcase your professional portfolio. If you’re employed in another field, make sure your profile picture is professional-looking; this rule should be the same for any other pictures visible to the public.
Some people may ask, “Does this mean my Facebook is no longer my own, and I can’t post anything personal?” No, not necessarily.
It’s just important to be aware that employers are looking at us. This may be your first – and possibly only – chance to impress someone, and it’s important not to waste the opportunity to create a good first impression.
Most of us in the professional world have at least some information that is available to the public to see. In this highly competitive world, you cannot afford to have a bad personal brand. Take the time to look at your social media sites and consider whether or not your personal branding needs work.
About the Author
Dr. Samantha Bietsch is currently an Associate Professor in the School of Business. She has an M.B.A. in business administration from American Intercontinental University and a D.B.A. in business administration from Argosy University. Prior to entering into higher education, Dr. Bietsch held numerous roles in the financial services industry.
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