Within the last 20 years we have all become increasingly used to sharing our lives online with others via social media.
The evolution of social media, along with other web-based technologies, has been fast paced and immense. Our natural desire to socially connect with others and share our lives also resulted in a quick take up of social media platforms. Facebook alone has gone from 1 million users in 2004 to over 2.7 billion users in 2020.
Whilst for many of us sharing photos and thoughts over social media may seem to be harmless fun and a way to connect with our family and friends, the growth of social media and the longevity that any information posted on the web has, means that we should be thinking about what we post and when a lot more carefully.
As the first generations to grow up with social media now are becoming established in the workforce it is time to reflect on how something posted on social media at the age of 13 may not be something which reflects the image you might want to portray when you are older, especially within a professional working situation.
Particularly within business, having a professional image and reflecting your best self is important and you may not wish a potential employer to be viewing your teenage photos showing nights out, partying and your dedication to a specific band or celebrity.
Whilst this sort of social media may appear to be harmless and unconnected to your working life, it is important to remember how important social and personal connections can be within business, particularly within the digital world that we now live in. It is now highly likely that a potential employer will check your online presence before meeting you and draw conclusions from what is available via online sources including social media. This is particularly important when social media is indexed by search engines and posts can therefore appear within general searches in some situations.
Within business, colleagues are also likely to want to connect with you online as well as potential suppliers, contractors and employers who all may wish to gain a sense of you from your online presence. The need to have an online presence to represent yourself and your professional image therefore is also becoming increasingly important.
Whilst this might appear to suggest that you should not share anything online that is not part of your professional image this is not necessarily the case. There is however an importance in ensuring that you have clearly demarcated your personal and professional online presence into clear areas. You also need to ensure that you have clear rules relating to who you allow to see which parts of your online presence. There are a number of easy ways in which to achieve this.
As the popularity of social media has grown so too has the number of different sites available. One way in which to structure your social media use is therefore to use different systems for different uses. LinkedIn for example is a popular business connection tool which seeks to connect people due to their career and professional interests. Where you have other interests, you wish to follow online other specialist social media sites such as for reading or photography are also available.
Within large sites such as Facebook many people will keep a personal profile but it is also possible to have a business page which is separate from your individual page and can allow you to have two different forms of social media presence.
Once you have decided which site you wish to use for specific purposes it will then be important to check your privacy settings and any content you may have within the site you have chosen and ensure that the privacy settings are right for the content that you are storing there. You then should also ensure that only those from the right audience are invited to share with you within that site.
Deciding on the clear differences between your use of social media in different contexts can then help you to manage your online image and be clear about your use of different platforms. The earlier this is done within your working life the less likely that unwanted posts and images may be available to others to see across the web in the long-term future and your dedication to a long forgotten celebrity will be left where it belongs, in the past.
About the author
She holds an MBA and a PhD from the University of Plymouth and currently lives in Cornwall with her partner and dog. Her research interests relate to teaching and learning and the use of technology within education and business. She has written over 20 journal papers, conference papers and book chapters and regularly travels to both teach present at conferences and events across Europe.
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