By now we’re all aware that it’s important to be professional online, that employers have the ability to do background checks based through our social media accounts. And also that many people, though they know what they should do, nevertheless they don’t care or pay attention to the risks that social media poses. But is it really social media that has created these problems or has it simply amplified preexisting issues?
No matter what the case is, there definitely needs to be concern of what is on your social media accounts and seeing that Facebook is the biggest social network by far, it only makes sense to focus on what you should and shouldn’t do with it. That said, many of these also apply to other social networks like Twitter and Google+.
There are really two parts which encompass several things that you can do – improving how your Facebook account works and how you work on Facebook. These are two vastly different things as one is technical, while the other is psychological and habit-oriented.
How You Can Improve How Your Facebook Account Works
This category is the technical side of things which basically covers how you can modify and change your Facebook account to best benefit you. Here we’ll explore things from managing privacy settings to reviewing posts you’re tagged in before they’re published to your wall.
Managing Your Privacy Settings
It should be quite obvious why this is important. Your privacy settings control who sees what. There is a lot on this. More than I can cover in this article. In fact, we have a whole MakeUseOf guide on it, so check that out. However, things are constantly changing, so whether you’re reading that guide or this post today or further down the road from when they were posted, there could be changes made to Facebook’s privacy settings that make resources less relevant.
Here is the number one tip in managing your privacy settings no matter the time. Are you ready for it? Check them. There – that’s the biggest tip. Simply look at them and explore what you can do. After that, if you have some questions, go back to articles such as this one and use them as resources to fine tune your settings. But reading this article won’t change your settings. You have to do it. I still find things that I missed, so checking them regularly would be my second tip.
Each area is important in a different way and I highly recommend you look into each of them. Here’s a list of some of the things you can control in your privacy settings:
- Be aware of the apps you use and their permissions.
- Review posts you’re tagged in before they go public.
- Block and restrict people and apps.
- Manage past post visibility.
- Who can look you up by email address and phone number.
- Who can send you a private message.
- Who can send friend requests.
- Who can post on your timeline.
- Who can see what other post on your timeline.
- Who can see posts you’ve been tagged in on your timeline.
Some of these settings such as reviewing tagged posts have been covered previously on MakeUseOf in my article The 5 Best Hidden Facebook Tricks You Should Make Use Of.
Below are two other important things which I mentioned in that article:
- Categorize “friends” into lists to direct posts to the appropriate audience.
- View how you’re viewed with “View As…”
Enable Public Search
You might think you should hide everything, but I think just the opposite. You should already not be posting sensitive content on your Facebook. If you are, stop. Enabling your profile to be displayed in public search results can be a benefit – it’s like free advertising. If future employers look you up and find your Facebook nice, clean and professional, they’re likely going to assume you are too.
You can enable this by opening Ads, Apps and Websites and scrolling down until you see Public Search. Click Edit Settings, then check the Enable public search box. There’s also a link available to view your profile as it appears publicly.
Keep Professional History Up-To-Date
Of course, if you are going to show up in public search results, it’s important that your Facebook account is current. Now, I’m not 100% positive that you should show your professional experience and education publicly. However, I do and I see many advantages to this.
Note that you can make your work and education can have different settings so, for example, if you prefer one to be public while the other is only visible to friends, that’s possible.
Review All Your Information In Your Facebook Profile
This is along the same line as being visible in public search and keeping your professional history up-to-date. However, this is a little more in-depth. There are a couple of methods in doing this. One, which was already previously mentioned, is managing visibility of your past posts. Again, this can be accessed under the Facebook privacy section.
Other things you can do is going through your photos and deleting and/or setting permissions to individual photos or albums so that only certain people can see them. This can also be done with posts and a great way to do this is through the activity log.
Make Your Facebook Username Your Name
This is likely one that most of you have done already, but if not, it’s good to do. It makes it easier for people to find you and there’s really no reason not to do it. To choose your username click on Account Settings on the dropdown arrow by your name. You’ll see Username under General Account Settings. It’s important that you use your name, not some obscure, random username that you’re stuck with as long as you have a Facebook account.
Use Semi-Professional Profile & Cover Photos
Alright, so it’s kind of a pet peeve of mine when people have a photo of something, or worse someone, other than themselves – it’s rather annoying and I find myself pondering the question “Why?” It may simply be a personal opinion, but I feel it is better to have a profile picture of yourself.
Also, be aware of what your cover photo portrays. I’ve seen some pretty insane ones that I would not want someone which I’m connected professionally with to see (not on my profile of course, but on others). Sometimes I wonder if people realize that their cover photo is public.
Highlight Your Important & Professional Posts
Highlighting posts is quite simple. Just hover over the post you wish to “show off” more on your timeline and click the “star.” This attracts more attention to these as people scroll through your timeline. One use I have for it is for articles which I’ve written and shared.
How You Can Improve How YOU Work…On Facebook
Don’t share something you don’t want EVERYONE to know.
This section has little to do with Facebook or social media itself and more to do with your own habits and “personality.” I put personality in quotes because most of these don’t define who we are, but have simply become a part of how we act.
Refrain From Sharing Emotional, Self-Centered Posts
Need I say more? You might have read my MakeUseOf article, How To Drive All Your Facebook Friends & Twitter Followers Crazy. You’ll quickly see in reading the article that the first thing to do to make everyone on Facebook “hate” you is to talk about your own emotions constantly. Several of the next tips fall under this umbrella of “how you talk.”
Watch Your Language
Foul language, personally, is a major annoyance. It’s not professional. It’s offensive. And in almost all cases the word can be replaced with a different word that is just as useful, if not more. So watch your language, or better yet, don’t use profanity at all.
Be Positive…Most Of The Time
I say “most of the time” because it really depends what you’re talking about. I post rants on Facebook occasionally, but you need to be aware who your audience is and who it is visible to. Rants can be OK, however if in doubt, error on the side of caution and don’t say it.
You certainly should never complain about your work. This is a big no-no and will never earn you credibility among your friends, let alone any future employers.
Take a Second To Check Your Grammar & Spelling
This has actually become less crucial with the ability to edit your Facebook posts, but I still see this all the time. I suppose I am a bit of a grammar freak…
I wish I could edit other people's statuses, tweets and posts. For grammar purposes only of course. #GrammarNazi
— Aaron Couch (@aaronrcouch) October 19, 2012
However, despite my opinions, wouldn’t you agree that it is easier more now than ever, with spellcheck and the ability to change what your status says? Come on, it only takes a little bit and will make you appear so much more intelligent.
Notice I say “appear”. That said, someone who takes the time to check their work, even if it’s just a status, can be appealing to an employer looking for someone who pays attention to detail.
Be Frugal With Your Friends
Perhaps this isn’t a big deal, but I still feel like it should be considered. Who we are friends with does reflect on us whether we like it or not. Now, controlling who sees what you’re tagged in, what your friends post on your wall and what posts you’re tagged in get shared to your wall can definitely help. But if you feel like there is a friend who could be affecting your employment status or professional appearance, it may be time to remove them from being able to interact with you.
If there is one point I would like you to take away from this article it is don’t share something you don’t want everyone to know. It’s the Internet and nothing is really private so if there’s something you really don’t want everyone to know, you probably shouldn’t share it. Many of these points apply to your offline and “real” life as well and adopting them as habits into your everyday life can help change your online habits on Facebook and other social media platforms.
Lastly, the argument could be that you could just delete your Facebook account completely. However, how practical is that really? It just seems an inconvenient quick fix to problems that will occur in a different form if they’re not addressed properly. Like I said, it may sound harsh, but the ultimate solution to being professional is not your Facebook account, but you.
For more great advice on managing your Facebook profile check out Tina’s article: 5 Things You Can Do NOW To Secure Your Facebook Account & Make It Recoverable.
What are your thoughts on this matter? Have you taken action to “professionalize” your Facebook account? Do you feel like it’s a bit overrated and doesn’t matter? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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