Are Facebook, Myspace and LinkedIn Good For Your Reputation?

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

Social Networking has become the main game in town for upwardly mobile professionals. It’s standard to find most of your colleagues on LinkedIn, Facebook or Myspace and involve yourself in a social community – groups and activities you share an interest in. Let’s face it, they save you so much time and energy in tracking people down, why would you choose any other way? And it’s an easy way of telling people what your interests are and creating your ‘personal brand’.

Some organizations have even created Alumni societies on these platforms so you can keep in touch with old colleagues. I use these to see what’s happening with old friends from my days at Oracle and Microsoft. Not all of them, I add.

Peter Birley, a CIO for a law firm, has built his social profile to great success. See my interview with him here. Like Peter, many IT people are using a social profile to build credibility and authority in their niche; it’s much easier now to be recognized for your contribution to industry. This, in turn, can be used to tap into the ‘invisible job market’ and land the top jobs before they ever hit the clearing houses of job sites.

So as I’ve said a number of times before, your social profile and your social network are very valuable assets. What value would you put on it? What would it cost you if it was destroyed? It is easy to destroy your social profile. How? Here’s how:

  • Joining groups that could be seen as politically incorrect or in bad taste – anything involving racism, cruelty to animals, etc.
  • Uploading pictures in bad taste, such as porno (this might be to your taste, but not to other people)
  • Using bad language Making comments that step ‘over the line’
  • Bullying or aggression

But the list doesn’t end there. The above are obvious statements. There are other things you can do which are just as damaging:

  • Discussing previous employers in anything but a good light
  • Providing answers or advice on subjects you have no knowledge or experience in (and it showing as such!)
  • Spreading rumors

Common-sense prevails! There are three main reasons why such a ‘bad’ profile is a big issue for your existing or potential employers. The first is that it creates the ‘first impression’. Put yourself in the shoes of a manager looking for your next bright recruit, would you look on someone with a questionable social profile as an appropriate candidate with strong moral fiber and a good corporate citizen? Despite the desire for diversity, there are levels of conformity that managers look for. The second is that such a person will become an ambassador and spokesperson for your organization in the public eye. I don’t mean on TV, but on the street, on the train and in the community. The third reason is that by employing this person, your organization and brand is associated with and diluted by their personal brand.

Michael Cruse also discusses this subject in his article ‘Social-networking can be rewarding and it can get you a pink slip’. Michael comments:

The greater position of authority, or likely hood of promotion, that someone is in, the greater the level of scrutiny that people will be under. If someone is going to be considered for promotion, management and HR will review not only the work ethic and achievements of the candidate, but may review public information to be sure that the person is truly ready for the position.

In a different article, (Could social-networking sites hurt or help you get your next job?) Michael tells us what employers look for:

Reviewers tend to go back through the last 5-10 posting and then view posts by topic cloud, categories or complete site searches. You do not want words like “Drunk”, “Partying”, “Cheating”, “Fired” or other negative words to be in your tag cloud, or categories, if it displays you in a negative light. Watch your language as well! This can be a huge turn off for potential employers.

We IT folks tend to be oriented towards using web technologies. We also tend to be wedded to our technologies and form factions against others. So we’re primed to engage in discussions in the public eye to the detriment of potential future employers. Beware!

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2 thoughts on “Are Facebook, Myspace and LinkedIn Good For Your Reputation?”

  1. MySpace – Are there any IT folks there 😉 ? So far, I’ve not felt the need to explore further.

    FaceBook – Will I be the only one without an account? This status could be worth money in the future… 🙂

    I can kinda see how my 12 year old daughter has fun posting pics and chatting with her mates after just seeing them 1 hour before at school.

    Funny thing though – after asking her to self-police using social media tools while doing homework (she knows my dislike for multitasking when there’s work to be done), I found that she’d closed the whole lot down because “it was taking too long to get her homework done”. 1st set to Dad!!

    LinkedIn is less of a distraction because (until a few days ago) there weren’t many apps to fiddle with. I’ve been exploring the Q&A topics and enjoyed answering 1 or 2 career-related questions every other day or so. Sometimes I get a PM thanking me for the comments.

    I first thought of Twitter as a chance to improve my microblog copywriting skills (i.e headlines!) but unless you have an audience of thousands, there’s little return on the effort. Rather, I’m starting to think it’s one way of following potential mentors either passively by just reading what they say, or by actively getting involved in their conversations. I’m sure someone will be selling a “training course” on how to do just that (sorry, been watching too many Internet marketing seminars… )

    Finally, I’d agree about the potential for both building your personal brand and seriously damaging it with these online tools.

    I guess the bottom line advice would be to only post what you’d be OK for anyone and everyone in the whole wide world to read – coz they can, online!!

    And I wonder how many future rising stars in the business and political worlds will be flamed out by what they did online 1,5 or 10 years previously?

  2. @Mark – I think there are too many tools to keep up with so if you’ve excluded one or two then you might be at an advantage. I guess we have to keep an eye on where the ‘buzz’ is.
    Oh yes! That’s a great point. Imagine if one indiscretion now damages our prospects in 10 years time. That would be a disaster…

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