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Etiquette rules for social media
published July 22, 2010

Photo by Salvatore Vuono (http://bit.ly/9VF55Y)

While many of us use social media for personal interests like connecting with friends and sharing info and photos, it’s increasingly becoming a robust career tool. If you aren’t already utilizing social media to establish or advance in your career, you might be putting yourself at a disadvantage.

Sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are quickly growing in popularity. Over two million Canadians are LinkedIn members — that’s double last year’s statistic. We’re using these sites to expand our network of professional contacts, share our credentials with prospective employers, get an insider’s perspective on a specific company or connect to professional groups. For example, nearly 4,000 York alumni have joined our LinkedIn alumni group, which has job postings, discussion boards and career-related articles.

Employers are using social media too. They have become an important tool for recruiting tactics like posting jobs, scouting for potential candidates, conducting background searches and monitoring the behaviour and communications of prospective employees.

In 2009, CareerBuilder.com surveyed employers about their use of social media for recruitment and selection and found that 28 per cent of Canadian employers conduct background searches through social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, blogs and Twitter. Of the employers surveyed, 55 per cent said they disregarded candidates for posting inappropriate photos, while 50% said the candidate was written off for sharing confidential information from a previous employer. The same survey showed that 78 per cent of employers hired candidates after screening online because their online profile supported the candidate’s professional qualifications and 52 per cent of employers hired someone because their profile provided a good feel for the candidate’s personality and fit.

Since managing your online identity and relationships is becoming increasingly essential, here are eight steps to increase the effectiveness of your online profiles:

  1. Consider why you’re online – Are you job hunting or looking to change careers? Do you have expertise that you want to share? Once you’re clear about the purpose of your online presence, you’ll be better equipped to ensure your online identity accurately conveys how you want to be seen.
  2. Ego-surf – Google yourself to find out what information already exists about you online. Whether you have a Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter account, or you’ve set up your own Web page or blog, ensure the information is up-to-date, consistent and conveys the image you want to portray to your online audience.
  3. Protect yourself – Decide who you want your audience to be and adjust your privacy settings accordingly. Think before you join an online community or agree to be just anyone’s Facebook “friend”. Be sure that your private conversations aren’t public and keep an eye on what others are posting about you online.
  4. Protect others – Don’t tag your contacts in unflattering or inappropriate pictures or make suggestive remarks about them that could negatively impact their online identity or jeopardize their online relationships. Think about the consequences of your online actions both on you and your contacts.
  5. Cultivate your online relationships – Social media are not about promoting yourself without regard for those around you. Relationships are a two-way street, so invest time in nurturing relationships so that a mutual exchange of information, advice, referrals and support takes place on an ongoing basis.
  6. Clean it up – Think about who can access your information online. Remove any content that may be viewed as offensive, unprofessional or inappropriate to your online audience.
  7. Show respect Don’t randomly approach a contact you barely talk to and begin asking for favours. Take the time and effort to get to know your contacts as people (not by their positions/job titles, status or perceived influence). Don’t be pushy or stalker-like, sending frequent invites or repeated requests for assistance. Communicate with your network in moderation. Grad and networking guru Tim Cork (BA ’81) gives some great tips on this in this alumni video on networking.
  8. Mind your Ps & Qs – Very few actions in the world of networking are as important as showing respect, common courtesy and thoughtfulness by thanking those who have helped you or tried to help you. Manners matter and relationships are long-lasting.

The good news is these easy-to-do steps will improve your overall image, relationships and, ultimately, your success. Get online, create robust profiles that will represent you well and then invest energy in building your network. This takes time, so if you’ve been putting it off, it’s time to make your professional profiles a priority.

by York U Career Centre