Create (or Destroy) Your Personal Brand on Social Media

 In Communication

When “Kaitlyn” (not her real name) came in for an interview, I liked her immediately! Everyone on the team agreed; Kaitlyn was a strong candidate who seemingly checked all the boxes. We were ready to extend her an offer to join the team. That is, until we visited her social media pages!

From explicit language to highly suggestive photos, we were taken aback. What someone does in their own private life is their business. No judgment! What someone posts for the world to see … well, that’s another story. I didn’t want this type of imagery associated with our company in any way, shape or form. There was no need to continue the process. No need to check her references. NO offer extended.

Facebook … Twitter … LinkedIn … Instagram … Snapchat … TikTok … the social media merry-go-round is enough to make you dizzy.

Whether you love it, hate it or are baffled by it, social media is an undeniable force, used by close to 80 percent of Americans, depending on which statistics you read.

When you use it in the right ways, social media is a powerful tool that can help build your personal brand and reputation. But social media can easily tarnish both when you’re careless or use poor judgment (as Roseanne Barr — dethroned queen of comedy — quickly learned in 2018).

Power Idea:

Social media lives at the intersection of what you control and what others perceive, reflecting both your personal brand and reputation.

Yes, Your Personal Brand Matters

Before you tell me that you’re “just” a supervisor, analyst, customer service rep or whatever, let’s get out the imaginary eraser

You’re not “just” anything. You’re YOU — whether you’re a CEO or small business owner, employee, hobbyist, volunteer, parent, friend, spouse … These are all roles you fill. The ways you fill them all play into your personal brand.

The greatest thing about a personal brand is that you get to design it.

Starting with a blank canvas, you color your personal brand the way you want to show up — and do show up — in the world. It’s a combination of your intent and follow-through. And anything less than authentic will seem contrived.

Social media can be highly visible and wide-reaching. You’ll want to be thoughtful about your usage, because your reputation is at stake!

Power Challenge 1: Dip Your Toes in the Social Media Waters

The first step in curating your personal brand on social media is to familiarize yourself not just with Facebook or Instagram but with the other popular media platforms as well, and I’ll explain why.

Picture yourself at an all-inclusive tropical resort that you’re visiting for the first time. I am going to guess that before you jump into any of the six pools (it’s a nice resort), you’ll get the lay of the land.

Then you’ll decide which pool you’ll enjoy first. Will it be the quiet, adults-only pool, or the fun-lovers’ lazy river? Same resort; different sets of rules, guests and activities.

And then you’ll either dip your toes in the water — or dive in headfirst, depending on your style. (Another story for another day.)

Think of social media as the resort. Each of the various platforms is a “pool” with different sets of conventions, visitors and goals. Having a basic understanding of the mainstream social media platforms will allow you to be an informed participant on any or all that appeal to you:

Facebook —Facebook enables users to post, share, and engage with a variety of content such as photos, videos and status updates — and to participate in an extensive variety of groups. Less popular than it once was with younger users (who fled for other platforms once Dad, Grandma and Aunt Helen sent them friend requests), Facebook is the most widely used social media platform in the US; according to Pew Research, 69 percent of adults use Facebook.

Instagram — Targeted toward mobile users, Instagram is a photo- and video-sharing platform. Users can add captions and hashtags to their posts to widen their reach. Instagram continues to rise in popularity and its demographics lean toward a younger crowd than Facebook (although that gap appears to be narrowing).

LinkedIn — A business-oriented social networking site, LinkedIn is primarily used for professional networking and development. Even if you don’t actively participate on social media, having a polished LinkedIn profile gives potential employers, prospective clients and anyone else who might cross your professional path a glimpse into who you are and what you do.

Twitter — Known for its limits on characters in posts, Twitter is a real-time social network for  users to share updates with followers. Content is mainly news and customer-service oriented in nature. Users can favorite and retweet the posts of other users, as well as engage in conversations using @ mentions, replies and hashtags for categorizing their content.

Snapchat — Post, share … and poof! Snapchat photos, videos and stories are best known for their ability to (allegedly) disappear within a specified timeframe. Once popular with teens and tweens, it now attracts a more diverse audience, including entertainers and businesses who use it in marketing campaigns.

TikTok — A cell phone is all you need to record, edit and share a TikTok video, which you can post on the app itself — or on another social media platform (such as Facebook or Instagram). TikTok incorporates special audio and video effects, adding a whimsical touch to ordinary video posts, which run on a 15- or 60-second loop.

Sources: Definitions adapted from HubSpot. Statistics courtesy of SproutSocial.

Power Quote:

“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.” – Miles Kington

If you’re a social media newcomer, I recommend picking one platform to start. Explore! See what others are posting. Notice how people are responding to posts.

Create a platform-appropriate profile (if you don’t already have one). Your LinkedIn profile picture should be professional, matching your industry conventions, while your Facebook profile can be a little more whimsical.

If you’re comfortable on one platform, but the others are uncharted territory, choose the next one to master.

Once you’re familiar, aim to create one post per week. See how your posts land. What seems to resonate with people? Notice how your confidence grows the more you experiment with different types of posts — eventually, on each platform that you care to use!

Power Challenge 2:  Avoid Social Media Faux Pas

Think, then post, not the other way around! Every post — on every platform — should be intentional.

Power Quote:

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” – Warren Buffet

  1. Before you hit the “post” or “share” button, ask yourself: What’s the point of sharing this photo, joke or article? If the answer is “I think my network will find this interesting/funny/thought-provoking …,” go for it! If you have an ulterior motive, like showing off, “getting back” at a co-worker who threw you under the bus or making your ex jealous of your new relationship, think again.
  1. Post the right types of content to each platform. Photos of Fluffy, your new Pomeranian puppy, are perfect to share with your friends and family on Facebook and Instagram. But no matter how adorable she is, those pics don’t belong on LinkedIn!
  1. Observe the cardinal rule of social media: Don’t post anything—a photo, a video, a joke, a cartoon, a screenshot of a text message, anything — that doesn’t pass the “Grandma test.” Even if you have the coolest, hippest grandma on the face of this planet, how would you (or she) feel if she happened upon that post? When in doubt, don’t do it!
  1. Do NOT – capital N-O-T—assume that you have control over a deleted post. You don’t. While you can always choose to delete a post, once it’s out there … it’s out there. You have zero control over who saw it, shared it, or took a screenshot of it.
  1. Don’t be sloppy! Watch out for anything that might be in the background of any photos. Just because something is legal doesn’t mean you want the world to see it in the background of your photos.
  1. Maintain your dignity. I know, you’ve worked hard for that bikini bod, but does a photo of you posing at the beach really belong on social media? (What would Grandma say about that??!)

Power Challenge 3: Use Social Media to Be … Social!

Humans are wired for connection. Social media expands our reach for connections in ways that might be otherwise impossible.

Power Quote:

“Strangers are just friends waiting to happen.” – Rob McKuen

  1. Comment on posts. “Congrats on your well-deserved promotion, Allison!” is such a nice way to give someone a virtual high five for an achievement. It’ll only take you ten seconds to type, but it can warm the heart of someone on the receiving end. Chime in on a post asking for input, opinions or recommendations. “Social proof” goes a long way when you recommend an outstanding house painter to someone in need of one; your testimonial can help both the painter and homeowner in need of a paint job.
  1. Be courteous. Be respectful. Be nice. This is a biggie for me! Hiding behind a screen doesn’t give you the right to make anyone feel bullied or “less than.”
  1. Join groups. Facebook offers tons of opportunities to interact with and learn from people with shared interests. Some groups are super active, while others less so; some are gated, while others are open to the public … but one thing is for sure: There are a lot of them out there! Find a few and engage with them. Groups can provide a sense of community and support — and others are just plain fun (Pomeranian owners, delight in exchanging pics of your pups!).
  1. Meet new people. If you’re looking to grow your professional network, for example, aim to make 50 new connections a month on LinkedIn. Of those, choose 10 to interact with through the platform, whether by liking, commenting on or sharing their posts. From there, choose two and invite them to meet for a virtual coffee!
The Power of Social Media

I wish I could have “unseen” Kaitlyn’s social media posts. Or that I could have taken her aside and gently cautioned her about the blurred line between one’s personal life and professional image.

Instead, I hope that she’s happily employed elsewhere, and that she realizes the power of social media in creating — or destroying — her personal brand.  And maybe someone forwards her this article so she realizes the power of social media in creating or destroying her personal brand.

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Carla inspires leaders and team members — and provides real-world tips to become the best version of themselves that they can be. Contact her today.

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