Social Media – Your Online Reputation

Social media is a great asset and can help to advance your career and goals but it can also hold you back. Close to 90% of hiring managers are looking at applicants’ social media history and making hiring decisions based on what they find. The images and words you post can reach a much larger community than just your friends. Material sent to a small group of close friends may find its way onto the Internet where it becomes public forever. What some may find acceptable may offend others and there can be very public consequences.

Below are some examples of how posts on social media have backfired, costing people their jobs and reputations. You will also find suggestions for how to scrub your social media profile and avoid potential problems.

Who is looking at your profile?

  • College Recruiters
  • Rental agencies and landlords
  • Job and Co-op recruiters and hiring managers
  • Work supervisors and colleagues
  • Loan and financial managers
  • Social contacts – friends and people you are dating

What you write and post matters…

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What you say online has consequences; the First Amendment gives you the right to say most anything but it does not mean that you are free from the consequence for your speech.

In 2011, a UCLA student posted a racist rant in a YouTube video. The backlash was swift and immediate and she was publicly ridiculed online and on television. She quickly took down the video and apologized, but the post had already been copied and re-posted elsewhere. The University did not discipline her but she withdrew from campus because of the controversy .

In 2010, a Duke University student created a very detailed PowerPoint presentation including names, pictures, and details of the men she had sex with at school. This document was only supposed to go to three friends but within a few days it was leaked to the internet. The student not only embarrassed herself but also violated the privacy of the 13 people on the list. Forever now future employers and others can view this information. There is no word on whether or not the student was sued by the 13 men as all parties have kept a low profile on the internet since the incident.

A UCLA grad student in 2009 was hired at Cisco and tweeted, “Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.” Unfortunately, the tweet was read by a hiring manager at Cisco and since the student was going to “hate the work”, the company rescinded the employment offer.

In 2011, a NYU Law and Security fellow tweeted what he thought was a funny joke about the brutal sexual assault of a reporter in Egypt. The backlash was swift and in less than 24 hours he resigned from the university.

Last December 2011, three Capitol Hill legislative assistants were fired for tweets they sent detailing unprofessional behavior, drinking, and badmouthing their boss.

A picture is worth a thousand words…

(flickr @sirtrentalot )

It might be fun to post pictures from your phone during a party on Facebook or Twitter, but who else besides your friends are viewing the pictures?

In 2008, a New England Patriots cheerleader was fired after she was seen in Facebook photos holding a sharpie next to a passed out man who was covered with drawn-on graffiti including swastikas and crude sexual drawings.

Last year, two New York politicians – Anthony Weiner and Christopher Lee – were both forced to resign after they posted semi-nude pictures of themselves to Twitter and Craigslist.

Job and Co-op Implications:

A 2011 survey by Reppler, a social media monitoring service, found that 91% of employers view an applicants’ social media profile and 69% have rejected an applicant because of what was posted on their social media sites.

The most common reasons for rejecting an applicant were:

  • Posted inappropriate photos and comments
  • Posted content about drinking and drugs
  • Posted negative comments about a previous employer
  • Demonstrated poor communication skills
  • Lied about their qualifications

Your Date WILL Google You

A recent study reported that 43% of singles have Googled their date before going out. First impressions are important and now they occur before the date begins. What does your profile say about you? Does your online persona differ from your personality? Are there images or posts that would be embarrassing to bring up with a new person you are trying to impress?

Recommendations to Clean Up Your Profile

  • Remove any offending or questionable images and posts from your profile. Use your gut; if you think it might be questionable, remove it.
  • Un-tag all images you are linked in and ask your friends to un-tag you in their pictures. If they refuse, “un-friend” them; real friends care about your requests. You may also be able to change the settings on your account to make it harder for others to tag you in pictures or comments without your permission.
  • Remove any questionable third party comments or links from your profile.
  • Ask people at parties not to take your picture and not to upload it to the Internet.
  • Do not post or respond in anger; stop, take a few breaths, and think about what you are going to write.
  • When posting a picture of or information about another person ask for permission first.
  • Don’t say bad things about your current or past employers and businesses.
  • Keep your posts generally positive; leave out the profanity.
  • Don’t friend your boss, professor, or colleagues. They may be friendly in a work environment but that does not mean it’s appropriate to bring them to your private life.
  • Keep constant tabs on all your social media accounts for new pictures or comments by others that do not show you in a positive light.
  • Monitor the privacy settings on your social media accounts so that only your friends can see your posts (instead of friends-of-friends, etc.). Note that even with these privacy settings in place, anyone who has seen your information could potentially copy and re-post data without your permission. Choose your “friends” carefully.
  • Do not accept friend requests from people you don’t know. Even if they appear to be a friend of your friend. They could be spammers, marketing companies, data gathering companies or others trying to collect personal information about you.
  • Nothing on the Internet is private; everything on the Internet is permanent.