3 Ways that Social Media Can Damage Your Professional Reputation

With our generation, the concept of social media has exploded both in terms of popularity and in controversy. It’s an incredibly attractive means of communication: instantaneous, gratifying, and easy. Predictably, this highly visible 24/7 mode of communication has resulted in endless scandals that have impacted countless individuals in terms of personal reputation and professional status.

From waitresses getting fired for posting comments about rude things customers have said on Facebook to executives getting canned for making racially insensitive comments on Twitter, stories of employees getting terminated for controversial statements made online outside of work is nothing new.However, the consequences of irresponsible behavior on social media can have sneakier consequences that outright termination.

Here are a few ways that social media can hold you back professionally – and how to avoid these situations yourself:

1. Social media can make it more difficult to get that job / promotion

During any interview and application processes that you encounter on your path to employment and promotion, your sole intent should be to craft an image of yourself that is the perfect fit for the position available. Everything from your cover letter to your follow-up should be specifically designed to demonstrate your fit for the job. Venting your insecurities and personal feelings online might be cathartic to you, but it can be a red flag to your employer or hiring manager to take a closer look at any weaknesses you might have.

A sterling online reputation is especially important for job seekers with a marketing degree in hand.

Word to the wise: Make sure that you flag your more intimate posts to be only visible among close friends. If you wouldn’t let your potential boss look in your diary, don’t let them read your personal posts.

2. It can damage your effectiveness as a leader

For leaders, being impartial is essential to your duties of influencing others. Few things can be as damaging to a leaders’ abilities as rumors of favoritism or bias among those under their eye. Professionalism at the workplace means little if you go home to make rude remarks about employees online once you clock out. It can be equally damaging to engage other co-workers like they’re buddies rather than professional associates.

While the culture of each company might change how open you can be online, it’s better to assume that professionalism everywhere is best.

Word to the wise: If you want to bring on co-workers to your profile online, make sure you keep it clean and bias-free. Alternatively, reserve your social networking with co-workers only on professional networking sites like LinkedIn.

3. You might alienate potential clients and hurt your brand

One of the most widespread consequences of poor social media practices is how it can damage your professional reputation, and of the company that you represent. As headlines frequently demonstrate, it only takes one social media flub to completely destroy a brand. However, it can also be alienating to potential clients or customers if you convey ideas that clash with theirs. While “edgy” has its own marketing appeal, it can also be a double-sided blade.

And always remember: once you’re a professional, controversial comments meant as inside jokes or brash opinions can easily turn into a media debacle.

Word to the wise: A professional presence doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to forego social media at all. In fact, having an online presence is almost necessary in today’s world. However, keeping things safe and politically correct is always a safe bet.

By Katherine Gredley, an elementary teacher who enjoys reaching out to others online about professional development. Recently, she wrote with CareeRealism about the best ways to follow up after an interview.

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