You've probably seen headlines like these:
- Twitter Gets You Fired in 140 Characters or Less
- Facebook Photo Convicts School=Aide of Drinking Charge
- Pennsylvania English Teacher Fired Over Blog Post
More and more, people are going online to connect for work, and that goes for people undertaking a new career.
LinkedIn offices. Image: © Scott Carson/ZUMAPRESS.com
Using social media to network can benefit your re-careering efforts, but only if it's done properly. Standard business etiquette still applies online.
The Big 3 Social Networks
This week in the Reinvent Yourself series, we're looking at using social networks as part of a re-careering journey. Here's how to get started, and what to mind your online Ps and Qs:
LinkedIn: If you want people to find you in the professional social media world, LinkedIn is the place. Fill in your profile completely and include a professionally appropriate photograph. When you ask someone to connect, customize your request. Let them know why you invited them to connect. Join LinkedIn Groups in your field. Participate in discussions, but don't make it all about you: Congratulate others on their successes. Use LinkedIn Jobs to look for positions you might be interested in.
Twitter: Twitter allows you to engage with people to broaden your social network. Keep a balance between the number of people you follow and the number of followers you have. When it comes to tweets, go for quality over quantity: Tweeting all the time is the equivalent of talking too much. Don't just tweet about yourself. Be gracious and tweet about others. If you're looking for work, use TweetMyJobs, a Twitter-based jobs database.
Facebook: The country's largest social network started out as a place friends went to connect. But it's fast becoming an important part of people's work life. Professional contacts may ask to friend you on Facebook and may feel insulted if you turn them down. As an alternative, ignore the request and ask them to join you on LinkedIn instead. However, you may find you have better access to customers if you connect with them on Facebook. If you're starting a business, consider creating a separate Facebook page for it. Current and future customers can use it to find out about the business and you.
Minding Your Manners Online
When it comes to business etiquette online, there's no need to reinvent the wheel. Use common sense and act the way you would in person. Here are some additional pointers:
1. Maintain a professional presence. Present and future clients, customers, business contacts and potential employers will look you up on LinkedIn and other social networks, and you want to be there so they can find you. What they see and read represents you. Look at your profile and ask yourself, "Would I want to do business with this person?" or "Would I hire this person?"
2. Think before you post. Material you put online can come back to haunt you. Don't assume your information is secure even if you've activated privacy settings on your accounts. Any pictures you show or updates you write can become public. If you have any doubts about something, don't post it.
3. Follow company guidelines. Many companies have policies that cover employees' social networking during work hours, including what business information it's okay or not okay to share. Follow the rules. Also, don't post negative comments about your employer: You don't bite the hand that feeds you.
4. Be polite. Even though you're not communicating face to face, your behavior matters. If you wouldn't do something in person, don't do it online.
Barbara Pachter is president of Pachter & Associates, a Cherry Hill, N.J., business etiquette and communications training firm. Read more from her on Pachter's Pointers, or submit your business etiquette questions on the Pachter Training Facebook page.
Kaplan University provides a practical, student-centered education that prepares individuals for careers in some of the fastest-growing industries. The University, which has its main campus in Davenport, Iowa, and its headquarters in Chicago, is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (www.ncahlc.org). It serves more than 53,000 online and campus-based students. The University has 11 campuses in Iowa, Nebraska, Maryland and Maine, and Kaplan University Learning Centers in Maryland, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri and Florida.
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