Managing Your Online Persona

You set up a new Twitter account and you are gung-ho ready to start participating in online conversations, spreading your own valuable content and having exchanges with thought leaders and friends online.  It seems so easy, doesn’t it? It is.  But it is easy to mess up too.  Unless you are a professional politician with advisors trailing you and offering advice on what to say, what color to wear, where to look when entering a room and how to greet a new acquaintance you will need to manage your own persona.  Most of us do not walk around 24/7 with a filter for what we say and do, but if you are going to be active on social media you will need to do just that.

I am going to tell you something now that you have heard before but I want it to really sink in, so I want you to say it out loud “Nothing I put on the internet goes away.”

“Nothing I put on the internet goes away.”

  • Anything on a private account can have a screen shot taken of it.
  • Deleted content stays on the web (or on servers)
  • Privacy settings change.

If you post an unhappy comment about a client on your private Facebook page, are you 100% sure that there isn’t a single person on your friends list that wouldn’t copy that and send it to someone else?  Are you willing to take the chance?  Deleted content could still be stored on the web, and security settings can change, exposing what you posted months earlier to an audience it wasn’t intended for.  In my mind, it is best to assume everything I ever put online is or will be seen by everyone, so if you don’t want it seen, don’t post it online.

Unprofessional language is one of the main issues I see when I am exploring social media accounts.  If you wouldn’t say a word or phrase in front of a boss, client, or in a job interview it shouldn’t be said on social media or on your blog.  In 2012, 37% of employers check out your social media profile during the interview process (I imagine that percentage is higher now).  One of your clients may not be as supportive of your political candidate as you or appreciate that colorful rant about a coworker.  Play it safe and save those spicy words and commentaries for offline conversations.

Good Morning! You went viral!

It is easier than ever to unknowingly become a viral image or video.  Many of us remember the lady on her phone filmed by mall security cameras who walked right into a fountain because she wasn’t paying attention to what was in front of her.  Then there is the lady who took the baseball out of a child’s hands at a game.  Neither woman thought anyone was really looking, and they certainly were not expecting their family, co-workers, neighbors, the CEO they were about to interview with or complete strangers a continent away to see their faces and action but it happened to them, and it could happen to you.  

Play it Safe.

Look, it's no fun to be on your best behavior all the time - I get that.  Some times you just want to say what you want when and how you want to, but that really isn't a good option anymore.  When the Internet was more anonymous you could get away with it but it isn't that way now.  Now you are a brand manager.  You are the brand manager of YOU.  Be smart while online.  Assume your boss is watching.  Assume your next boss is reading your tweets and subscribes to your blog and you won't ever have to worry about any skeletons in your virtual closet coming out to haunt you in the future.