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Let social media work to your advantage

In today’s digital society, most of us have established a personal presence in the online space, even if it is small and limited to Facebook. The digitally savvy individual can be found on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, a personal blog, YouTube, Google Plus or Pinterest, to name a few.

It holds true that the general employee – someone who does not have the words digital or social media in his/her job title – joins Facebook and other online platforms with mainly one goal in mind: to connect with friends, family and people with similar interests.

‘Online platforms for personal use shouldn’t be avoided simply because it poses a risk. It is crucial to be an informed user and tread the online paths carefully. Social media platforms have a powerful reach outside of the personal realm and as with all things digital, everything is connected. Increasingly, social media platforms are used by employers and recruitment agencies alike to monitor existing employees and/or recruit potential employees.’ Kay Vittee, CEO of Quest Staffing Solutions

For the career seekers, having an online presence can be a powerful advantage, connecting them with potential employers and opportunities. It can also count against you, so be ever-conscious of what you send into the digital space.

Below are the two main categories of risks of having an online presence, immediately followed by easy-to-apply guidelines showing us how we can navigate the risks to count in our favour, as listed by Soumitra Douta, Roland Berger Chaired Professor in Business and Technology.

How do we manage social capital?

Stated simply: With whom do we connect?
The boundary between personal and professional spaces is hazy. Should work colleagues be our Facebook friends? How do we ensure that non-work friends do not post images or comments that hurt our professional image? These are only some of the questions in this regard.

The solution:
The rule of thumb is to be highly selective about contacts and to build one’s audience slowly and carefully.

Kay Vittee adds another solution: “A good idea may also be to separate your profiles for personal and professional purposes, keeping your security settings tight on your Facebook page – only allowing your friends to view – and allocating Twitter or LinkedIn to share your professional insights and information”.

How do we manage intellectual capital?

Stated simply: What do we communicate about?

Employees who consider posting company or industry-related ideas online, should carefully consider what they want to post. Remember: anything one wants to keep private and maintain control over should not be posted on a social media platform.

“In terms of the South African labour law, an employee owes his employer a common law duty of good faith, which includes a relationship of trust between employer and employee as well as the understanding that an employee does not conduct himself in a way that damages the reputation of the employer. This is especially relevant if an employee posts negative, defamatory or disrespectful comments about his employer, company or co-workers, which can result in discomfort or conflict in the workplace,” Vittee states.

Three-quarters of US recruiters and HR professionals report that they research candidates online and that employees have been dismissed by employers who did not approve of their Facebook or blog content. This trend is true for the South African context too.

The solution:
The solution is to set guidelines about what information you should and should not disclose. Be consistent across spheres, online and in other media.

Takeaway guidelines for job seekers:

  • Think before you post, update, like, share, or tweet;
  • Check your privacy settings and be in control of who can view your profiles;
  • Manage and monitor your profiles so you are able to delete or ‘un-tag’ unflattering posts or photographs you may be mentioned or ‘tagged’ in; and
  • Regularly update details about your education, work experience and career-specific interests on your public profiles (like LinkedIn), especially if you want potential employers to take note.

In conclusion, social media can be a safe and low-cost tool with ample opportunities for personal branding and networking, provided we examine our personal goals and target audience, and navigate our chosen platform(s) accordingly.

If you enjoyed reading this article and would like more specific tips from another source, you can read more here or contact Exceed Human Resource Consultants on 021 882 8140 /