Social media has made it easier for us to speak our minds. We can voice our opinions openly, in a way that we often can’t in real life. We feel a renewed sense of confidence because our audience cannot see us, and we cannot see their reactions. However, this doesn’t mean there are no consequences.
In 2013, Paris Brown was given the role of Britain’s first youth police commissioner. However, it wasn’t long before her posts on social media came back to bite her. Three years prior to accepting the role, the 17-year-old made a series of inappropriate tweets. One of these tweets was “I really wanna make a batch of hash brownies”.
What can we learn from this story?
1. Your online persona is a blend of your personal and professional life
Holly Seddon, editor-in-chief of Quib.ly, a parenting and technology social network, believes that this story teaches us a good lesson.
“The story highlights that our online personas are a blend of personal and professional, even if we think we’re keeping the two separate. Keeping a professional and impressive LinkedIn profile, for example, can still be undone by a foul-mouthed tirade or two on Twitter. That’s a lesson for us all, not just teenagers,” she said.
Having a professional and polished LinkedIn profile does not give you an excuse to post silly comments on your other social networks. You still need to maintain a level of professionalism across all social media platforms.
2. Social media creates an online archive of your behaviour
“More than any generation before them, today’s teenagers are creating an online archive of their behaviour,” said Holly Seddon.
However, this doesn’t just apply to teenagers. It applies to everyone who uses social media. The internet keeps a record of everything you’ve ever said. When recruiters look you up, they use your social media profiles to judge whether or not you’ll be a good fit for their company.
According to a Jobvite survey, 42% of recruiters have reconsidered a candidate based on content seen on their social media profile. So take another look at your posts on social media. Are they a good representation of the person you wish to portray to recruiters?
3. Your activity on social media, prior to accepting a job, is also important
You may be unemployed at the moment, but that doesn’t give you the freedom to post whatever you want on social media. Paris Brown was not employed as youth police commissioner when she made those tweets, however, due to the nature of her tweets, they had long-lasting consequences.
Think about the posts you’ve made on social media in the past. Are there any silly tweets from your teenage years? You should delete these, or change your privacy settings so these posts are no longer public.
4. Humourous posts may only be funny to you and your friends
Paris Brown claims that her tweets were just ‘youthful boasts’ and exaggerations. She probably did it for a laugh. However, her employer did not see it this way. And a recruiter may not see the humour in your posts either.
When employers hire the wrong candidate, it can set them back by six to 12 months, so they will do everything they can to ensure they hire the right candidate. According to the Jobvite survey, 93% of recruiters are likely to look at a candidate’s social profile before hiring them. So think before posting, and remember that recruiters may not understand your humour.
While social media has made it easier to speak our minds, this doesn’t mean there are no consequences. You should think before posting, minimise your reputational risk, and maximise your opportunities.