Everything you put online is visible to everyone, including hiring managers. What you make public online can either help you or hinder you from getting your dream job. There are a few things you can do to make sure your social media accounts will work in your favor.
Image from Houston Defender
In communications courses, you often hear that you need to brand yourself, but what does that even mean? Branding is basically how you represent yourself online and how your personality comes across. To effectively create your own brand, you should be yourself and also try to stand out from the crowd. To do this, have fun with how you customize your accounts, but make sure you aren't coming off as unprofessional. A good way to do this is having matching colors across your platforms and talking about things that you're passionate about.
Don't Be Offensive
Avoiding being offensive isn't very hard. All you have to do is think about what other people might think of you when they see that picture or post you're thinking about putting online. Additionally, think about all of those lectures you got in middle and high school about what not to post. For example, don't make posts about drinking if you're underage. If you're over 21, a classy picture of you with a glass of wine is okay, but pictures of you binge drinking at a party are best kept to yourself.
Part of this is also avoiding offensive language. Keep swearing to an absolute minimum or avoid it completely. A person who drops f-bombs in every Tweet doesn't come across as professional. Also, not going on political rants is for the best. If you do want to post about politics, make sure you're being respectful and eloquent and be aware that even the most well thought-out and best intentioned political posts could hurt you in the future.
Keep Some Details Private
Hiring managers can hold a bias against you for pretty much anything, even if they don't realize it. Having things like your political party, religion or even favorite sports team public could make someone choose another applicant over you. Avoid filling out the sections like this in your Facebook profile and posting anything related to affiliations on your public accounts.
Discrimination based on things you can't control, like race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability and more, is illegal, but unfortunately, it is something you may face in the future. Hiring managers could base not choosing you for a position on things like this from what they see on social media. They could also figure out some of these in person, so don't avoid posting pictures of yourself and loved ones out of fear of discrimination. You'll probably never know if discrimination is why you weren't hired or if the decision was based on merits alone. If you weren't hired for who you are, that company is not one you'd want to be working for regardless.
Anyone can post anything that they want on the internet, regardless if it's true. We saw big problems with this with the spread of fake news on social media during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Fake news increased distrust for journalism, a field that has already been struggling due to the decline of newspapers and television. While this is certainly a big blow for journalism right now, it isn't a fatal one.
Social media has made it extremely easy to spread false information, but it has also made it easy to spread the truth. Finding details for stories and topics for new stories is so much easier for journalists thanks to social media. It's hard not to come across story ideas when you open up Facebook or Twitter.
Sure, people do post things that aren't true, but journalists can fact-check using other information found on social media sites and from different sources. Even though sifting through a ton of posts is time consuming and can be a lot of work, having extra information is never a bad thing. Also, if there is something that journalists miss or make a mistake on, social media makes it so much easier for readers/listeners to let everyone know.
Social media allows for direct contact between audiences and journalists. This can be helpful when journalists are looking for specific information or when people have something to share, be it corrections, tips or personal opinions.
Additionally, social media let's us get our news so much faster than we ever have. Journalists and news outlets are constantly posting story updates online. This makes it so much easier for people to get their news on the go (or while laying in bed). News alerts on smart phones also make sure that we don't miss any breaking news. I know that I am much more informed now than I ever have been because I use social media to get my news.
Like with any new medium, social media poses unique problems for journalism. I think that journalism will overcome these issues and be better off. Technology is constantly changing, so in the future there will be something that overtakes social media as a primary way people get news, but what could possibly edge out social media? We're just going to have to wait and keep an open mind.