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Tips and Tricks

Importance of Social Media Smarts: It Affects You Now, and Later

Did you know that every single tweet has been digitally archived in the Library of Congress since March 2006?* Did you also know that the FTC recently gave Social Intelligence Corp permission to retain files of posts by Facebook users as part of job applicant screenings? And that many companies are using all social media networks to research job candidates before scheduling interviews? Exercising caution online and protecting your privacy now can help prevent issues in the future when you are searching for a career. And it’ll also help you avoid any situations that could lead to termination after you already have the career of your dreams. Follow these eight tips to ensure you have the necessary social media smarts:


1. Double check your privacy settings – Review your privacy settings on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks to ensure they are set to your desired levels. Only share information with Facebook friends, and make sure info on other networks is shown only to accepted contacts. Also, be sure to review these settings once a month, as Facebook is constantly changing privacy policies, often without warning. Numerous people have lost their jobs or been forced to resign due to content they posted on social networks, particularly Facebook. Take this recent Mashable article as a warning, and be conscientious of what you post, even to an allegedly private profile.

2. Keep it clean – When on social networks, imagine you’re in the presence of your parents or a young relative—do not use profanity or otherwise inappropriate language. If a prospective employer stumbles upon your profile that’s rife with curse words and profane messages, they may assume that you’d speak the same way in the office, and eliminate you from the running. Always keep it clean to avoid this unnecessary risk.

3. Don’t post personal information – Never list your social security number, phone number, street address or other personal information on social networks. Exercise caution when adding other information that may help to identify you and/or your whereabouts—high school name, sports or clubs you are involved in, information about parents or siblings, vacation dates or other times you house will be vacant, etc.

4. Only befriend those you know and trust – Follow the advice your parents gave you as young child—do not talk to strangers, even online. If an unknown person sends a friend request, make sure you know that individual before accepting. This protects you in the real world, protects your privacy online and could protect your computer from viruses.

5. Think before you post –If you’re upset because of a comment someone left on your Facebook photo, do not reply immediately. Get up from your computer or put your phone down for a few moments to consider the consequences, now and later. Remember, you can delete it, but that does not mean the post is gone forever—it could have been stored on someone else’s computer and may resurface at a date in the future.

6. Medium doesn’t always matter – Even if a conversation took place in a private forum—email or instant messenger—it could easily be copy and pasted onto a more public channel. Maybe you get in a fight with the person you were chatting with, and they post your words as revenge. Or maybe they just did not realize how damaging it could be to your good name. Play it safe—be careful what you write in every medium, regardless of how safe you feel.

7. Create a LinkedIn profile – Build a professional profile on LinkedIn with information about your education, experience, talents and interests. A detailed and organized profile may give you the edge you need. Additionally, LinkedIn is a great place to make contacts at companies you’d like to work, and find openings in your desired field.

8. Never get too comfortable — Even after you land a job, you still need to be wary of what you post online and through internal communication channels. If your supervisors have a reason to suspect you, everything you do at the office can be scrutinized. They can read all of your emails, instant messenger conversations and even view your Internet browsing history. Tone can be difficult to determine through email or other written mediums; the original meaning could be misconstrued. Therefore, you should choose your words wisely every time you send a written message.

It may not seem important now, but a little caution can go a long way. Remember social media is essentially one giant open communication platform, using it over time you can enhance and effectively build relationships and your reputation. That being said you can very easily and quickly ruin relationships and tarnish your reputation if you are not mindful of what you say and do in social media Don’t let these tips frighten you away though. Social media can also be a great place to research career opportunities and make contacts in the industry. Always be sure to practice safe searching, and you shouldn’t have a problem.

Phillip Smith
Director of Public Relations and Social Media
Westwood College

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