by Ariana Garcia
When you log in to your social network of choice, it’s hard to believe that this means of connecting has been a part of life for only a decade. Yet it is now so common place that the majority of online users have incorporated it entirely into their daily routine. While on the one hand it has narrowed distances and increased our networking capabilities, it has also made it acceptable to broadcast one’s self. We’ve all heard (and sometimes witnessed first hand) stories of avid posters who clearly didn’t consider the consequences of their updates. It’s when I see these sorts of faux-pas that I remember my college career counselor’s advice – “If you wouldn’t want your grandma to see it, don’t post it.”
This seems like common sense right? But the truth of the matter is that too many people out there are oblivious to the reach social media has. (Not to mention, most people’s grandmas aren’t yet present on social networks.) In addition, I remember a world where you were taught to be selective about the information you shared online. Today you’re encouraged to tell everyone where you are, what you’re doing, and how you’re feeling as frequently as possible. Yes this constant flow of information has its perks but the key lies in knowing how to represent yourself on these platforms. The power of social media lies in how you decide to manage your personal brand.
When I say brand I don’t mean come up with a logo and put it on everything that you own. I believe the Texas A&M University brand website explains it best when they write:
To understand branding, first realize that a logo isn’t a brand, but a symbol that represents a brand. A brand encompasses much more than just a logo—it’s everything we do and say, as well. A brand is an opinion that is formed through experiences. A brand is a reputation.
This is especially true in the online realm. You will determine what information to portray about yourself, which will in turn communicate your brand – your reputation and values – to those in your network and beyond. The most important viewers of your social network antics are potential schools or employers. One embarrassing picture or negative comment from you could completely change their perception of you as an individual. For this reason, always keep the following things in mind.
1) Keep It Professional: As I mentioned earlier, if your online profile contains anything that might make your grandma blush it shouldn’t be there. Everyone likes to have fun but portraying yourself as overly seductive or a party animal will not do anything to gain a potential employer’s trust. The same thing goes for your language. Just because it’s easy to post it doesn’t mean you should abuse curse words or ignore spell check.
2) Be Considerate of Others: Do NOT by any means post potentially embarrassing comments or images on your friends’ profiles. Remember that everything you post online if visible to more than one person.
3) Don’t Spam: Applications and add-ins gain popularity through referrals so many times the application will suggest you recommend this feature to your connections. Trust me when I say that no one appreciates these messages. Make sure you decline this option when given the choice. If you’d actually like to recommend a feature, reach out to your friends individually.
4) No Talking to Strangers: Have you every had a strange person from halfway across the world request that you be their friend? It’s creepy and delivers no value for either party. If you’d like to have someone add you to his or her social network, ask a mutual connection to introduce you or introduce yourself when the time is right.
5) Practice Moderation: Posting is a great way to rally support for various causes or events. For the sake of safety, always be wary of the amount of information you divulge when online. For the sake of your friends’ sanity, don’t share every little thing you do during the day. (No one cares what flavor of toothpaste you used this morning).
These are all simple and common sense things to keep in mind but too many social network users don’t put them into practice. Remember that just as you are what you eat, online you are what you post.
Ariana Garcia lives in San Jose, CA. Her passions are languages, good books and anything sweet. She currently works in the online advertising industry. She holds a B.A. in Communication from Saint Mary’s College of California.