The young professionals of the world hear it constantly: “Beware of what you put on Facebook because it might come back to haunt you.”
As such, most people now know better than to complain about their boss or post pictures from last night’s party on social media. While most realize the evils of social media, do they know the good it can actually do?
Sandy Gholston and Mary Kay MacIver, co-chairs of Ferris State’s social media team, are the on-campus experts when it comes to using social media for professional advancement. They both agree social media should be used for professional self-promotion.
“Promoting yourself is very important,” MacIver said. “I use social media, about 80 percent of the time, to promote Ferris. I believe in the school and its mission and the student so I use my own [social media] accounts as well as the Ferris ones I’m an administrator of. Promoting something you truly believe in is the best thing you can do.”
To use social media effectively, Gholston said users must realize they portray a brand.
“You yourself [users] are a brand,” Gholston said. “As you find things you’re passionate about and things you’re interested in, you expand your brand. Say you’re somebody who’s involved in computers. You may not say you’re a computer expert, but people ask you for help and advice, then you’re a brand… You need to control your brand and be sure you use it in a way that’s positive. Your brand relates to what you can do, what you offer and who you’re affiliated with. People don’t realize their brand extends into how they act and represent themselves.”
Gholston and MacIver both agree almost anything can be said on social media, as long as the content is appropriate. For example, consider an enraged customer service employee coming home after a hard day of work. Gholston said the two most important things to remember before posting on Facebook should be “separation” and “positivity.”
“People come home from work frustrated and immediately want to get on Facebook or Twitter,” Gholston said. “My advice would be, if you feel like you have to vent, think about how you can get that out in a positive way. Maybe use humor or philosophy.”
Gholston went on to explain how he used to cover NCAA tournament events. He said they would use a “ten minute cooling-off period” to let off some steam before talking about the game.
Gholston used the recent outburst by Seattle Seahawks’ cornerback Richard Sherman as an example of why the ten minute cooling-off period is essential before sharing content on social media.
“Things like that don’t go away,” MacIver said. “You may delete them soon after posting and think you’re safe, but really, you aren’t. Companies can find it; they hire people to dig up what you think you’ve deleted. Even what you ‘like’ could get you into trouble with a future employer.”
There are endless ways your content can go viral on social media, even without your knowledge. People can take a screen shot or save your pictures or statuses and share your content through their accounts. Additionally, it may no longer matter what you post because what you message people privately can be exploited too. Some employers can request for your Facebook password prior to a job interview.
“People come here as students for just a short time,” MacIver said. “They’re going to be in their careers for the rest of their lives. We don’t say it to freak people out, but [it’s] very true; what you put on Facebook could seriously impact you twenty years down the line.”
Social media can be misused, and it often is, but the benefits of properly handling one’s online presence are invaluable and applicable to real life, as well. As human brands, each user should remember three simple rules: heed the ten minute cool-down period, keep track of your pictures and be careful what you “like.”