Earlier this year, Beyonce created a minor stir by posting a drawing on Twitterfeaturing a beauty pageant contestant with a “Miss Tasmania” sash competing against challengers from Sweden, Italy and Greece. Twitter users quickly corrected Queen Bey on her geography, inundating her with tweets pointing out that Tasmania is of course a state, not a country.
But as global social media blunders go, things can get a lot worse than that. Remember the Taco Bell employee who posted a photo on Facebook of himself licking a stack of taco shells at work? What about the Buckingham Palace guard who, back in 2011, called Kate Middleton a “posh bitch” on his Facebook account? And the American high school maths teacher who shared racy photos of herself on Twitter, along with tweets about smoking pot? All were fired from their jobs soon after their social media indiscretions were discovered by their employers.
But there’s also a flip side to this issue that rarely gets media coverage: using social media the right way can help you get hired and keep your job. Many people, however, are still in the dark when it comes to social media know-how in the workplace. Here are three professional social media skills that I think are absolutely critical. They’ll not only help you avoid self-inflicted job sabotage but could also help accelerate your career.
1. KNOWING WHEN TO HIT THE BLEEP BUTTON
Last September, former Business Insider CTO Pax Dickinson was fired for making some particularly offensive comments about women and minorities on his personal Twitter account. Obviously, someone who harbours thoughts like these has some serious issues, but from a strictly professional standpoint, the situation hints at a larger problem.
Many people still seem to forget that personal profiles can have professional repercussions. No matter what your privacy settings are, the bottom line is that Twitter, Facebook and other networks are never totally private, and anything you post can find a way back to bosses. As the Dickinson case shows, few employers are eager to associate themselves with off-colour or offensive content, even when it may be intended as a joke.
2. USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO NETWORK PROFESSIONALLY
Many people have dutifully filled their LinkedIn profiles with current and former positions, internships, extra-curriculars and academic accomplishments. But LinkedIn’s true job-finding power is often overlooked: managers and CEOs who would normally be out of reach are often just a connection or two away. Find out who the best people to follow are, send out a friend request and get connected.
In fact, you don’t need to be connected at all. A paid feature called InMail, for instance, enables users to send emails directly to any one of LinkedIn’s 277 million members. Truly enterprising job seekers can hunt down big fish like Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Deepak Chopra, then send a pitch straight to their inboxes.
LinkedIn Groups are also a great way to start conversations with people who can become a key part of your professional network. Look for groups that focus on job searching and careers to expand your own knowledge and contact base.
3. APPLYING SOCIAL MEDIA TO ACTUALLY SAVE TIME
According to a 2013 Salary.com survey, the most frequently visited personal website at work is – you guessed it – Facebook. As networks proliferate – and employees not only check Facebook but post on Twitter, browse Instagram and more – social media has the potential to be a devastating time suck. Yet it can also be a time saver in the office.
A recent McKinsey report notes that social media has the potential to unlock up to $1.3 trillion in economic value, largely owing to improvements in intra-office collaboration. Internal social networks like Yammer enable employees to form virtual work groups and communicate on message boards. Instead of endless back-and-forths on email, coworkers can post and reply in continually updated streams. In an era when efficiency and communication are prized, being up-to-date on the ways social media can be used internally is a big job asset.
Of course, staying up to speed on all of these innovations isn’t easy. Even Millennials, who are supposed to be the social-media-savviest of us all, make serious mistakes. A recent study found that one in 10 job seekers between the ages of 16 and 34 have been rejected for a position because of something posted on their online profiles.
To stay up to date on the latest social media advances, growing numbers of people are turning to online courseware. There are lots of options out there – from free tutorials to high-priced software. But we suggest it is advisable to stick to programs offering industry-recognised certification (such as our own Hootsuite University). For job seekers competing in a tight market, gaining these kinds of social media skills – unheard of just a decade ago – might just make all the difference in finding and keeping a position.
Ryan Holmes is the CEO of Hootsuite, a social relationship platform used by 9 million people and leading companies around the world to manage their social media.
*Original Article by Ryan Holmes: http://www.brw.com.au/p/leadership/ryan_hootsuite_save_holmes_sabotage_kzHHWGaUArSe8ODwENmTvK