You can severely damage your career by using social media as a weapon. It’s much easier to be rude, cruel or powerful when you sit behind a computer, so much so that I’m often asked to facilitate teambuilding sessions for groups in severe conflict over a comment made online. Just the same, I have also had clients (men and women) rather despondent from lack of interest in their social media profile. Wow! Now even our virtual egos are being bruised? Social media mayhem is a growing problem in both our personal and professional lives and if you feel that it’s your best weapon against others, think again. Here are some ways to ensure that you don’t let social media hurt your career.
Take it Offline. The other day I was reading an article about cars and saw a banker’s ranting post about her dissatisfaction with a purchase. Not only did she leave a permanent bruise on her virtual reputation but so did the dealer’s representative who responded with such a caustic and insulting tone that I would be surprised if he’s still employed. This is the perfect time to take it offline. It would have reduced their blood pressure to seek an amiable solution, but it would have salvaged their career reputations. There quickly comes a time when conversations are best in person. This is especially true if you want to advance your career or grow your business. According to USA Today, “Face-to-face conversations tend to be more positive, and more likely to be perceived as credible, in comparison with online.” This highly impacts your career in the way that people will tend to trust you more and when there’s trust there’s opportunity.
Avoid Social Snubs. So your colleague wasn’t courageous enough to walk over to your office and let you know your cologne is too strong so they posted a notice about it on Facebook. Not a good idea. Social media should never be used as a weapon, a snub or way to avoid communicating. LinkedIn is a great way to ignore others, disconnect with those you don’t like anymore or block invitations, but what does that really say about you? I know I don’t want to do business with someone that takes that kind of “power” stance. A while back, I accidentally sent a connect request to a woman who I thought I had met at a conference. While it was certainly her choice to disregard my request, or look at my profile and decide I wasn’t worth the risk of connecting, she didn’t. To my relief, she took a professional approach and set me a note asking how we met. I was honest, told her I thought she was someone else and she not only connected with me but let me know that she appreciated my honesty and was interested in getting to know me better. Our relationship grew from there.
Watch Your Footprint. I wanted to share with my clients an article about the hiring process, but thankfully before I sent it I scrolled down. Attached to the bottom of the article were 45 pages of comments complaining about and slurring human resources professionals. Curiosity got the better of me and I clicked on some of the comment profiles and was surprised to see how many were “seeking new opportunities.” Wow, what a negative footprint. If hiring managers check your social media profile, why would you risk such a negative reputation? Think about this potential interview question: “Would you say what you wrote about someone on social media to their face?” If you wouldn’t, proceed with caution. It’s a cowardly act to go off on a virtual rant rather than sharing your concerns face to face. Remember, the internet is only a portal for communication and not an excuse to avoid communication.
Get Out More. If your day is ruined by what someone writes on your wall, an angry tweet or a Tumblr upload then you need to get out more. Not only will it make you feel better but it will boost your career mood not to hang on every written word. If you spend your lunch hour staring at Facebook then you’re missing out on a lot—good health, good experiences and good opportunities to connect with and learn from others. These are things you can’t buy online and are critical for career success.