Q: What are your recommendations for balancing personal and professional information on social media?
A: It used to be easy to know which social media were for strictly professional use (e.g. LinkedIn) and which were for more personal use (e.g. Instagram), but the line has certainly blurred. Some job seekers leverage the social aspect of sites like Facebook and Pinterest to showcase a passion or talent that enhances their personal brand, and some job seekers are sharing more personal information on their professional profiles in order to differentiate themselves.
A simple answer is to create separate identities on the social media you use to keep personal and professional interactions separate. But that can be confusing to friends and followers and life today rarely has relationships that fall into such neat categories.
It’s important today to understand how social media is perceived by others. No matter how you regard and use social media, employers and recruiters will use it to help them do their jobs. Most will Google you and look up your LinkedIn profile. For many positions (not all) it’s considered a detriment NOT to have a LinkedIn profile. In addition, the social world is expanding every day. Whether they’re active users or not, your various family members and acquaintances from every imaginable aspect of life are on social media and can see your posts.
With that in mind, here are some tips for balancing personal and professional information and activities on social media:
Consider the impression you’re making – Take a look at your profile(s) as if you were a recruiter or hiring manager. What is the first impression you get from your photo (or lack of photo)? Do you share professional content on your profile? Does your online activity reinforce your resume? I.e. do you participate in online groups or blog about topics that demonstrate your expertise? Make sure your online presence is sharing the impression you want it to give.
Make sure you’re search-friendly – Just as there are certain conventions to follow for writing resumes, there are different criteria to consider when updating your digital bio. In this case, that means making sure your bio includes the right keywords to appeal to employers.
Remember the behavior rules for social situations – Poor social skills – think of party-goers who monopolize conversations, complain about everything, or take credit for others’ ideas – are just as bad when they happen online. Social media was designed for engaging, not broadcasting. With that in mind, consider posting updates that spark conversation or adding your comment to a retweet. Look for businesses and brands that you’d like to work with and follow them online. Engage with the thought-leaders in your industry.
Know the difference between personalizing and being overly personal – Sometimes we don’t know where the line between personal and professional is until we’ve crossed it. Negative comments, a spike in ‘unfollowers,’ or overall decrease in activity on your social media profile page can be signs that you’ve gone too far. Conversely, a lack of activity and engagement may mean that you’re not interesting enough.
Update privacy settings – If you don’t trust yourself to remember personal and professional boundaries, consider creating rules that will remember for you. Facebook and Instagram both allow you to choose who can see your posts and Pinterest gives you the ability to create secret boards.
About the Recruiter
Kristen Coppins has 10+ years of experience in the staffing and recruiting industry. As a Director and member of the management team at Professional Staffing Group (PSG), she oversees the new hire training and development program. Kristen is also a member of ASA’s Continued Education Committee.