You might have heard of a ‘Social Footprint’, but what exactly is it? Can it affect your career and what should you do about it?
Your social footprint is the mark you leave when you use a social network. Imagine that every time you update your status or post a Tweet, you’re taking a step forward in concrete and leaving a lasting mark behind. Eventually that footprint might erode, but it’s safest to assume that it will be around forever. What you say, and where you say it, can have a lasting effect on your career opportunities. Here are a few things that might help, and a few that certainly won’t:
Keep your profiles private…
Social networks all have privacy settings. If you don’t want strangers seeing those pictures of that wild night out, then you should make your social network profiles private. You have some control over what goes public, so use privacy tools to your advantage and assume that people looking at your Facebook page are potential employers vetting you for a sought-after position.
Maintain a professional image…
Even if you think that you’re protected by privacy settings, it’s best to assume that you’re not. Behave as though everything you’re writing is still in the public eye, and never forget that keeping your profile private doesn’t stop a friend from posting public pictures of you. Things can, and do, go wrong. Glitches make private information public, and if you’ve been complaining about your boss or your job then you should expect it to come back and bite you.
Open yourself to opportunities…
Mostly you’ll use your social media accounts to chat with friends and keep up with the latest family gossip, but it’s worth noting that they can be an important career tool. Certain social networks (LinkedIn, for example) are used by recruiters and managers to headhunt new employees and can be used for networking and building important business connections. If you’re not in your dream job, a professional and up-to-date profile could soon resolve that issue. If you are then building the right connections could be your ticket to the top.
Befriend your manager…
Keep your work life and your social life separate, wherever possible. If you befriend your manager then it’s easy for them to see everything you post. Refusing to accept a manager’s friend request will also protect them – it’s harder for them to maintain their authority when they’ve spent the weekend posting pictures of their heavy drinking session, or of them dressed as a superhero at their son’s birthday party.
Employers are expecting more and more of their employees, and so refusing a friend request from your manager is also one of the easiest ways to ensure that you won’t get a message on Saturday morning asking if you’ll do a little overtime at home – it’s hard to refuse when you’ve already written a status about your lazy Saturday with nothing to do!
Complain about your employer…
No doubt you’ve heard of the ‘Six Degrees of Separation’. This theory states that you’re only ever, at most, six links away from any other person. Try it out on Google by typing ‘Kevin Bacon number’ followed by the name of any other actor or actress, to see how they’re connected.
This means that it’s surprisingly easy for anything you post to get back to your employer, even if you don’t think that you have any mutual friends – especially if you’re interesting enough for your comment to go viral. Don’t complain about your manager, because there’s every chance that your sister’s husband’s nephew’s best friend’s favourite customer is her mum.
Forget to separate your business and personal accounts…
You should feel proud if you’ve been given the important responsibility of managing the company’s Twitter account. It’s not an easy task, and you’re obviously trusted. Now, you need to make sure that you keep the two accounts separate. Footprints start immediately, and can be incredibly difficult to erase.
There have been countless examples of individuals forgetting to sign out of their company’s Twitter account and back into their own. It’s surprisingly easy to do, and the end result is that your foul-mouthed rant about that terrible driver on the way home will be published under your employer’s name to…well…everyone!
Have you got any tips to add? Do you know any entertaining examples of social footprints causing problems, or do you have a positive story to share? Comment and let us know.
Nick Taylor writes guides for recruitment companies and employers, helping them to make the most of the recruitment process.