The time has passed when all you had to do to maintain and/or build a reputation while using social media was to avoid incriminating photos. Your social media profiles now serve a much deeper purpose.
"[You need to] think of yourself as a personal brand," said Irina Pichura, CEO at Career Manifestations. Your profiles serve as a window into who you are and how you wish to present yourself to the world, and employers are taking note.
Your social media and you
We have all seen the stories of employees or job candidates making poor choices on social media that get them fired or removed from the running. This is because employers have started to take what an employee posts in their free time as an expression of their character and personality.
"Your profiles on social media are an extension of yourself," said Tara Redfield, CEO of Redfield Media Management. "Employers want to see that you are responsible and levelheaded."
Creating a professionally acceptable social media presence doesn't mean erasing who you are. "I advise clients to present themselves as true to who they are as possible," said Redfield. "Be authentic, share your hobbies, the things you love. [Just don't] post anything you wouldn't want your grandmother to see."
Be the brand
To get started, ask yourself if your social media is a true reflection of how you want the world to see you. Does it show a variety of your interests? Does it emphasize what sets you apart from others? Do you use consistent imagery and handles/usernames? Does your feed reflect your skills?
"There is no one way to present yourself," said Clare Watson, operations director at Zolv. "But sticking to your 'brand' and letting personality and character shine through makes a fantastic online presence."
A brand doesn't have to be complicated, either. As Barry Feldman put it, you are a brand. Embrace this by identifying all the positive things that make you you, and post them in a way that makes sense for the message you are trying to send.
Watson said that most hiring managers will look for candidates that come across as inventive, versatile and engaging. It's also important to remember that when a hiring manager looks at your social media, they're looking more for a confirmation of your skills and qualifications than a reason not to hire you.
"If you will be in a public-facing or marketing role, then [your] social media can really make you stand out and prove you can do the job before you've even started," Watson said. "A positive social media presence is only going to benefit your job application."
Do your homework and monitor
As you're deciding how to brand yourself, Google yourself to get an idea of what's already out there. (Pro tip: If you're in Chrome, use an incognito tab to avoid any saved search elements.) Look for your full name and any variations of your name you might have used.
Once you've decided on your brand, do periodic Google checks to make sure you're showing up the way you want, and be sure to update each account regularly. This shows that you're engaged and keen to stay updated on current events within your industry.
It's becoming more necessary than ever to have a personal brand unifying your social media. While it may not get you the job, lack of or bad branding could cost you an opportunity.