Facebook is by far the most popular social networking site currently out there followed by others like Twitter and LinkedIn, connecting friends, family, former and current colleagues, clients and even potential employers.  As of March 2013, Facebook alone reported having 1.11 billion monthly active users, worldwide, according to Wikipedia, and with that kind of influence, Facebook can be a valuable tool for professional networking.

That being said, be careful of making these typical mistakes on your social media profiles:-

  1. Inappropriate profile photo (or album photos if your albums are public)

Prospective employers (or clients for that matter) do not want to, or need to, see pictures of you guzzling a bottle of whiskey, pulling a Beerculus or sticking your tongue down your better half’s throat after one too many, as this will not support or enhance the image you wish to portrait in your professional life.

  1.  Complaining / commenting about your current job on public forums

Be it a full note about how much you hate your job, or how unfair / incompetent / lazy etc. your boss is or even an innocent remark about a colleague always being late, doing so on a public forum is not a wise career move and might not sit well with a potential employer let alone your current employer should he or she browse about these comments.

  1.  Conflicting information – CV vs Public Forum

For example, if you state on your CV that your degree or diploma is from Stellenbosch, but your social media profile(s) says you went to CPUT, you have just removed yourself from the interview list and made yourself look like a liar!

  1.  Avoid “The condemning status update”

You know (I hope!) to avoid statuses like “Going to call in sick tomorrow to go to the beach” or “I’m so hung over I’m not going to work today”. Not only will this again portrait you as a liar, because let’s face it, when you do phone in sick you will definitely not admit to your boss or HR that it is due to a hangover or to get that much needed tan! So, better avoid posting any updates that imply you are unreliable or dishonest – or both! – And therefore not the professional you would prefer people to see you as.

  1.  Guilty by association

You are unfortunately judged by the company you keep – you cannot always control the photos your friends tag of you on Facebook (luckily you can remove the tag once you become aware thereof) nor what they post on their walls, be it photos or status updates, that may include you. Should a potential client or employer see those weekend pictures your friend has tagged you in where he is falling down drunk or smoking some less reputable substance, it reflects badly on you.

Social media can get you hired … or fired

The best advice is to set your privacy setting to the maximum and only share sensitive information with your friends, or even lists that Facebook allows you to create to limit the audience of your posts and photos. Also, set your profile to give you the option to approve posts and tags of friends BEFORE they appear on your Facebook wall. To have social networking profiles is in itself a good thing as this portraits you as at least technologically savvy and confident enough to engage with people, the key, however, is to ensure that these profiles present you best and enhance your professional image not the person who got drunk and threw up in a dumpster at a buddy’s party.

– Chantelle Hough Louw