I got in trouble quite a bit growing up, but not necessarily for misdeeds I had actually committed. My parents were firm believers in “guilty by association”—guilty for just being present when something went wrong.
As social media becomes more ubiquitous, I bet your brand is in the same position I was all those years ago.
Be careful who you friend
Both Facebook and LinkedIn have privacy settings to control who sees your connections, but Twitter doesn’t. Although the ethics and legalities are still being debated, forty-five percent of employers reported in a recent CareerBuilder survey that they use social networking sites to research job candidates, a big jump from 22 percent last year. Another 11 percent plan to start using social networking sites for screening.
As a hiring manager myself, let me tell you that it’s not enough to watch your own online behavior. You must also carefully monitor the behavior of your friends. Are they writing inappropriate content on your Facebook wall? Posting less-than-professional tagged pictures of you? Even though you didn’t put these items on the Internet yourself, they could still count against you. The lesson? Don’t friend anyone who might hurt your brand.
Wisk away unwanted photos
Last week, detergent brand Wisk introduced a Facebook app that allows you to send requests to friends who’ve posted photos you’d rather keep off the popular social network. Although the application cannot—as the name implies—“wisk away” any photos without consent of the original poster, one would hope your friends would respect the request. If not, you might want to reconsider connecting with them in the first place.
Create your own social media rules
Many organizations are releasing guidelines about how their employees can engage on social networks during work hours. It might not be a bad idea to do the same for yourself.
I actually have a strict rule about Facebook. I use it only to keep in touch with my family and really close friends whom I no longer live near. (If I don’t accept your request, it’s nothing personal!)
On LinkedIn, I’m a bit more liberal. As long as the individual seeking to connect is someone in public relations or the career space, I will typically accept. (Although, custom invites certainly help assure a connection.) I use LinkedIn for a completely different purpose than Facebook—mostly for connecting job candidates and employers.
My Twitter strategy has changed several times since my first tweet in November 2008. I used to follow people back on a regular basis as long as they were job seekers, employers, university staff, public relations pros, or HR/career experts. But since being named to CareerBuilder/CNN’s “Top Job Tweeters,” I’ve had a hard time keeping up with demand. Now I follow back individuals who actively engage with me in an appropriate manner—and I’m not afraid to unfollow people for behaving badly.
Every rule I set for myself on a social networking platform is an effort to maintain control over my personal brand. After all, if those looking to me are anything like my parents, my brand could become guilty simply because of association.