Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Evaluating your Online Presence

Micro-communications, in the form of social media, present possibly the only true two-way communication source for a PR practitioner. Crucially, social media channels have changed the way individuals communicate, and this means increased transparency for tomorrow's graduates.

According to Facebook, there are more than 800 million active users, and more than 50% of these log in each day. On average, more than 250 million photos are uploaded every day (and considering Facebook are automatically assigned intellectual property rights over these photos, it's scary to think how quickly Facebook alone could build an online profile of any individual...)

Googling yourself may seem voyeuristic or egotistical, but its the first place to start in understanding your online presence, and you can bet any media-savvy employer will also make this their first port of call.

Google Search for my name - show's mostly Twitter and LinkedIn profiles

So, here's a few pointers on evaluating and smartening online presence:

1. Consistency - making your 'online brand' work for you involves maintaining a consistent feel across all channels, much how an organisation has a company house style or corporate logo. Using the same username 'laurenvhockey' on Twitter, LinkedIn and for a Gmail address means I'm easier to search for, you won't get be confused with other Lauren Hockey's (although there aren't that many) and it also looks neat on business cards and a CV. In the same way, using the same profile picture reassures people that they have located the right individual. I've kept my LinkedIn, Twitter and G+ profile photo matching deliberately - as G+ is still an emerging platform, and as Twitter users begin to filter into my circles, seeing my mugshot assures them that they've landed in the right place. I've always kept Facebook that little bit more personal, and so my profile photo may be different - but my privacy settings are tight and I wouldn't accept a friend request from a potential employer (assuming they were a total stranger and not a 'friend'). That doesn't mean I'm careless with Facebook though - which leads on to the next point...

2. Beware Carelessness - I've always viewed Facebook as the more personal channel, where I interact with uni friends on a more informal basis - but that doesn't mean I'm careless. Information posted online is, in effect, available forever, and posting offensive comments or even ones that imply laziness could go against you if a potential employer see's them. Ensure privacy settings are tight, or better still, don't post it in the first place. If you're worried photographic evidence of your weekend antics might incriminate you, change the settings so that you have to review each photo before it appears on your profile. (Or better still...don't get into the situation in the first place..!)

3. Be Concise - keeping your Twitter bio or LinkedIn summary short and punchy will maintain an employer's interest; rather than waffling about your personal qualities, briefly state your experience and interest. Including a comical reference, especially on Twitter, provided it's not offensive, will also show you don't take yourself too seriously.
In the same way, Tweets should be interesting and to the point. I admit, I've used Twitter to vent and occasionally make a mundane observation about mince pies or the weather; interspersing these with knowledgeable, engaging and thought-provoking Tweets, be it links to articles/blogs, or your comment on the day's news stories, will show you can balance life and work perfectly.

4. Follow the right people - if you use Twitter in a professional capacity, or one that's intended to enhance your career prospects, you're better off following industry bodies or associations than keeping up with what Lady Gaga had for lunch. Showing an enthusiasm for the industry means you may even get a follow back - which can make all the difference, meaning your name may come up if someone they know is recruiting.

Performing a Google search of your own name at least once a month - or more frequently if you are actively job hunting - and adhering to these rules will ensure you don't fall into the common trap of TMI (Too Much Information).

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