In this era of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn and countless other social networking sites, there is a thin line between your personal and professional life. While a simple status update, tweet, hastily written email or photos online might seem innocuous to you, it could paint the wrong picture to thousands of online users, including your friends, your family, and your coworkers. What is a savvy professional to do?
Double-check and make sure that your social networking sites are not "connected" to each other. Did you know that Facebook is now forging a "connect" service with Yahoo? Plus, users of LinkedIn and Twitter can now cross-reference each other's updates by checking a box on either network? Google's FriendConnect feature also allows users to connect their Twitter profiles to their Google addresses. This means that if you inadvertently sign up for any of these services, you could be sharing more than you care to with a wider audience on another network!
Pause Before You Hit Send
Remember that emails can be forwarded and re-forwarded! Before you hit "send" on ANY email, give it a quick skim and ask yourself a theoretical question: Would mind if your message ended up on the front page of a newspaper? Would you say what you wrote out loud, in a meeting? If the answer to those questions is "no," make it a "yes" before sending; you never know who might end up reading your email.
Don't Update Your Site in Dubious Times
Avoid making any adjustment to your site when you're not feeling like yourself. Had a long day at work? Go unwind with a friend over coffee, but don't rant about it online. Take care not to update your status or "tweet" about work-related topics. Even a seemingly innocent, "Man, I had an awful day at work" could be misconstrued by coworkers who come across your update. While we're on the topic of Facebook status messages: Be especially vigilant about how you portray yourself through your updates! As of December 10th, 2009, Facebook is encouraging its users to make their status updates and shared content (notes, shared links) publicly visible to the world at large!
Monitor Your Online Image Vigilantly
Google your name regularly. If you have a more common name, search for your name plus your company, or your name plus your alma mater. We recommend doing this a minimum of once per week. You never know what might be out there and how it can impact your potential to land a job or a raise. These days, your online image is the social equivalent to your financial credit score!
Adjust Your Profile's Security Preferences
Check whether the profile pages of your Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or other network is public. If so, verify what elements of your page are in full view. Are your photos public? If so, your friends or acquaintances can "tag" you in any pictures, and those can end up broadcast amongst your network. Before you take any digital photo, ask yourself: "Would I mind if my direct reports my managers saw this? What about my grandparents?" You never know - these days, they just might!
Our goal is not to vilify any of these social networking sites; we simply want you to keep in mind that every individual is essentially a brand, and every brand image affects the perceptions of others.