How Your Online Reputation Affects Your Professional Career
If you think your digital life is separate from your professional life, think again. In the Internet age, your online identity and your offline identity are one in the same, whether you like it or not (just ask the teacher who was fired over a MySpace picture). Know how your online reputation affects your professional career.
Just because your co-workers or boss might be watching, however, doesn’t mean you have to give up a rich and fulfilling social media life. This article will help you figure what you should and shouldn’t do on your social networking profile to maintain your unique sense of self while also building up a positive online presence that is beneficial to your overarching career goals and your company’s reputation.
Think before you post
You are probably friends with some or all of your co-workers on Facebook or other social media websites. Remember though that there’s a difference between your “Facebook friends” and your real-life friends.
If you are considering posting something, first ask yourself if you would share it with everyone in your office. It’s important to think about how your online reputation affects your professional career. If they are pictures of your baby niece’s pumpkin Halloween costume, you’re probably okay. If they’re pictures of your naughty police officer Halloween costume, maybe you should keep them among your close friends.
If you are compelled to share something online, at least set up the appropriate barriers so that only the right people see it. Most social networking websites have ways of filtering friends into specific groups. Use these filters to set up a “work-only group” where you can share selective content. Remember though that filters don’t always work, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you have doubts about a picture’s appropriateness, leave it off the Internet.
Don’t complain about your job online
It’s entirely possible that you don’t like your job, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to complain about your boss or co-workers online. As I wrote before, you have to be careful about what you share online. That includes snide remarks and exasperations about your company. Think about how your online reputation affects your professional career, before you publish that next post or tweet.
If you have a genuine work issue, it will not do you any good to pour out your frustration online. Take the time to set up a meeting with the appropriate parties within your company. That’s why they have such a thing as the Human Resources department. Talking out of school, so to speak, is a good way to show the company you’re not a team player and that you don’t value your position.
A number of websites have popped up in recent years offering employees a place to anonymously complain about their peers. Even if you feel like you have to vent, it’s not a good idea to use these websites. Even if you think you’re commenting anonymously, you may still share information in your complaint that gives up your identity. Bottom line: Work your job-related anger out at the gym, not on your blog.
Remember that you represent your company
Somewhere on the web, you’re probably linked to your company’s name. It might be on your company’s website, or in your own personal social networking profiles. That means that the things that you do online reflect on your company as well.
If you’re sharing content that runs parallel to your company’s stated mission, you are undermining your company’s reputation. Alternatively, you have to be careful about defending your company online.
If you love your company and are a stalwart protector of your brand, that’s a good thing. But if you’re not trained in crisis communications or public relations, you should rethink responding to any criticism directly. Well-meaning employees sometimes cause bigger problems by misrepresenting their company’s position or by inflaming the anger of the person who originally posted the complaint.
Instead of responding yourself, send your supervisors an email or give them a call and alert them to the situation. Sometimes it pays to show initiative. In this case, it might be better to send the problem up the ladder.
Contribute in a positive way
If you have a personal social networking account, don’t be afraid to use it to promote your company. Thanks to simple sharing tools, becoming a brand ambassador is as easy as creating a Facebook or Twitter account. Among your daily updates about your favorite TV show and what you’re having for dinner, sprinkle in a bit of news about your company’s latest product. It’s not about being a shill for your company, it’s about taking your natural tendency to share things online and putting it to good use.
If your company has a Facebook Fan Page, give it a “Like.” If your company is on Twitter, follow the account and send a retweet every once in a while. It may not seem like much, but it’s a great way to spread your company’s brand and make you an even more valuable member of the team. Know how your online reputation affects your professional career, and realize that it can work either to your advantage or disadvantage.