Build a professional presence on social media

By Allison Heimlich

The world we live in today is one heavy influenced by social media. Forgetting all the advertisements, PR campaigns and news stories that come from our media driven society, social media remains as one of the most prevalent forms of media in our society, especially in the younger generations.

Year after year, the amount of social media outlets increase: Myspace, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are moving onto more even personal platforms such as Tinder and Snapchat.

All of these media devices grant us more opportunities and an easy way to put out information about ourselves for anyone to access. With excessive amounts of information flowing around, how do we keep up?
For most, creating multiple accounts on some, or even all, of the media outlets seems to be the solution. The problem that people, especially in younger generations, are facing is how to monitor the use of their social media so it will not hinder business opportunities in the future.

In order to make people aware of how their social media use may affect them in the future, we must determine the pros and cons for mixing media and the business world.

“From the perspective of personal Facebooks, it could show how you live your life which may be in accordance with what you are trying to pursue,” sophomore Morgan Melo said. “But the negatives are obviously that as an employee of the company you are a walking, talking advertisement so they are not going to want to put their name on something they don’t think represents their company very well.”

The risk of not being hired or getting fired could in some cases outweigh the benefit of satisfying one’s urge to post beer pong champion or provocative costume party pictures.

People need to learn how to manage their media output so they represent themselves in a positive light or at least in a way where they are satisfied with how they will be perceived by anyone who might view it.
If people portray themselves how they want to be perceived by everyone, then they will be safe from any unexpected viewers.

However it has become increasingly harder for people to distinguish between what is acceptable to use in their personal lives versus what is appropriate to expose in a professional environment.
“There is definitely overlap between the two and there’s no real clear cut line of where they separate this,” junior Marina Howell said. “One way to balance is to save your personal media for your own life instead of promoting the company.”

It can be difficult for people to monitor posting information now because they do not foresee potential problems in the future.

But does the monitoring of social media stop once a person has entered the professional environment?

Senior Courtney Ochi, Alpha Chi Omega’s Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing, points out the possible concerns of social media in the professional world.

“It can be dangerous because anything posted can be seen in an instant,” Courtney Ochi said. “For example, a lot of companies get in trouble because workers accidentally tweet from company Twitter handles rather than their own personal ones.”

Even once a person has access to the business world, they have to be careful about monitoring media because once a message is sent there is a good chance it will be received by someone.
“Even if it’s only up for 20 seconds, a large audience can screenshot and save it,” Ochi said.

Another side of media is from the business’s perspective, where the use of social media can give an edge to one company over another.

“I think that social media can be a great tool for businesses in terms of marketing and advertising,” Ochi said.

If companies are able to promote themselves through use of social media, their name is heard and the products they sell can be seen by large groups of people.

This is a great way for businesses to reach their target audiences even if they are not able to do so through other methods of advertising.

One con Ochi pointed out was the lack of ability from our younger generations to communicate with each other. She also recognizes this as an opportunity for business to advertise.

“Their eyes are glued to their phones, so why not market on their phones?” Ochi said.

If people make it easy for companies to reach them through media, businesses are going to take advantage of the opportunity.

In order to protect ourselves from future business disadvantages, we must determine what media is appropriate for the business environment.

“Depending on what environment you are trying to go into, I would cater your pictures to go into that job path,” Melo said. “For example, if you are trying to be a nun you don’t want your pictures to have you in skimpy clothing, but if you are trying to go into fashion, maybe it wouldn’t make much of a difference.”

If it becomes too difficult to monitor statuses, pictures or comments, people can at least protect themselves from any future shock they would otherwise have.

Filtering media content by being aware of what future employers might frown upon in a specific job market may make it easier for people to edit, withdraw or omit certain media.

This way instead of worrying about each individual post, people can focus on filtering ones that may pertain to their career interest specifically.

Since media and filtering messages poses such a problem for numerous people, should access for companies be limited when it comes to employee research?

“I think that if you put it out there it is fair for anybody to see,” Melo said. “If you are going to put it out there it is your decision and if the company can see it then so can everybody else. Do I think they should go undercover and make some fake thing and search you out? No. But if I could see someone as a potential representation of my company I think that’s a pretty good indicator.”

Howell agrees with Melo that companies have a right to look up a potential employee’s personal profile.

“Yes. If you’re posting something online, even if it is blocked or private it is public knowledge and no longer belongs to you,” Howell said. “Whatever employers dig up is fair game.”

On the other hand, when it comes to limiting a company’s ability to research potential employees, Ochi sees it differently.

“People use their social media as an escape. It’s a way to connect with friends and family and it’s a personal space,” Ochi said. “If businesses infringe on this personal space, what do we have left?”

Right now, we are not able to control a company’s ability to look up employee personal information, so what can we do? How do businesses reap the benefits of our excessive social media use? How can we maintain a personal environment on the media without the fear of it affecting our professional lives?

Businesses take advantage of the knowledge that people in our society are technologically obsessed.

They put out advertisements to reach potential customers and use programs to search employees’ personal profiles.

Unfortunately, none of this is in our control. Those aspects will always be in the control of the professional realm.

So what can we do to prevent ourselves from being harmed?

One way could be to filter information so only information that a person is comfortable with their employer seeing is portrayed on media outlets.

Another way, which would be far more difficult, is to completely remove social media from our online presence.

Finally, a person could simply post things with a simple question in mind: would my grandma want to see this? If the answer is no, then don’t post it.

When it comes to media usage, we are our own worst enemies. If we are more informed about the ways companies use media, how businesses may use media against us and how the information we put out in the world can affect us in the future, we will not have to worry about potential harmful outcomes.

Only when we become fully aware of the affect social media has on our professional lives will we know how to properly interact with it.