Social Media Mistakes That Could Hurt Your Career

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At MediaLeaders, we travel the country teaching businesses and professionals how to shine online to strengthen their brand.

So, we asked several experts -- how can social media hurt your career and what are some tips businesses and professionals can use to avoid making social media mistakes?

Grammar matters on social media

Frances Reimers, Firestarter, @YourFireStarter
Thinking beyond the obvious social media blunders that can torpedo your career, i.e. inappropriate language and images, below are a few additional faux pas to avoid:

  • Poor grammar – a person is a detriment to the company’s brand if they consistently post content with poor grammar.
  • Oversharing – a person can appear unstable or untrustworthy to employers, clients, and partners if they overshare every intimate detail of their life.
  • Bucking culture – a person can appear to be not a team player if their posts counter company culture. This perception could prevent advancement within the company.

This blog post is brought to you by Josh Ochs' new book, Light, Bright & Polite for Professionals which helps companies create a healthy culture around employee social media engagement and develop a social media policy. In order to create a solid social media policy for your business, it’s important to understand how your digital footprint and social media mistakes can hurt your brand. 


Understand that social media includes all online communications

William Galkin, Galkin Law
First, it's important to understand that social media includes all online communications such as standard social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter), as well as blogs, WhatsApp, Pinterest, email, chat rooms, networking sites, and YouTube. Use of social media can result in numerous types of liability that will damage a career such as committing slander, liable, deceptive advertising, and harassment. The surest way to ruin a career is to post complaints and derogatory comments about the employer, employees, customers, vendors, etc. Also, if an employee makes public reference to customers, transactions or relationships of the employer that are not otherwise public - this could be very damaging to the employer (and of course to the employee). Employees should make sure that if they have a personal blog that it states explicitly that the opinions are that of the individual and not of the employer. Employers should review these issues with employees and prepare a written guide. The guide should include the proper role of social media as part of a business's marketing and human resources initiatives.

It’s okay to vent, just don’t do it on social media

Jayne Hitchcock, Working to Halt Online Abuse
Putting out too much information, criticizing people or companies (especially where you currently work), and posting questionable photos are ways you can hurt your career using social media. Don't get too personal - it's okay to say you're having a lousy day, but don't go into it. You can text someone if you need to vent. Posting a photo of you having a beer or drink occasionally is okay, just don't post numerous photos of you drinking. Also skip overtly sexual photos, giving the finger, smoking anything, or posing with a gun.

Be intentional and mindful of how you interact online

Eden Gillott Bowe, Gillott Communications
Ask yourself, “If my employer or customer saw this, would I care if I got passed over for that new job or missed out on a sale?” Stop and consider how what you’re posting, liking, or associating yourself with on social media can be interpreted. Some will argue that it’s not fair because that’s who you really are. Others will say it’s a hassle and not realistic. It will take some time to retrain your brain, but it’s well-worth it.

Posts can never be deleted

Maggie Aland, Fit Small Business, @FitSmallBiz
Social media is a powerful tool that can have a devastating impact on your career if you're not careful. You may think that posts which are not well thought out can be deleted, however, a quick screenshot of what you posted can live on for eternity. Avoid this type of scandal by hiring someone to either post on social media on your behalf, or read through everything before you hit send. A second pair of eyes will ensure that you are not posting anything that could have a negative impact.

Ensure that your social media matches your resume

Matt Sweetwood, beBee
It comes down to the Mom test. Would your mother approve of what you post? With 84% of hiring managers using social media to learn more about you, your Facebook and Instagram posts are a reflection of who you are, good or bad. Pictured with an alcoholic beverage? Ranting on politics? Is this something you want your employer, future employer, or client to see? Speaking of images, you must have professional photos throughout your social media accounts and your profiles should match your resume exactly.

Use social media to appeal as a worthy job candidate

Becky Lairson, Socially Jen and Co., @SociallyJenandCo
We live in a time when social media can, in fact, make or break your career. If you decide to use social media, both your personal and professional accounts can be thoroughly vetted by both prospective clients and employers. If you choose to avoid social media altogether, you can be looked over before the hiring process even begins. Professionals who use social media well can build their personal brand making themselves appeal as a worthy candidate before ever setting foot in an interview. Social media now acts as a resume that can span back in time for years.

Optimize your LinkedIn profile for search

Mindi Rosser, Mindi Rosser Marketing, @MindiRRosser
Your LinkedIn profile could be severely damaging your career if it is not optimized. Many people think that it’s enough to have a LinkedIn profile that lists their company, position, and a few prior jobs. What they don't realize is that if you are job-hunting or building your brand, you must have an SEO-optimized LinkedIn profile, a high-resolution professional headshot, a compelling summary and an attention-grabbing headline. It's also critical that you actively engage on LinkedIn by interacting with status updates and sharing content. If you're not, your competitors are. And, you won't land the job.

Build a positive reputation by posting well-written and engaging content

Valerie Streif, Mentat
One subtle social media mistake that can hurt your career (that isn't as obvious as posting drunk pictures of yourself or racist content on your company's Twitter account) is posting articles or other content too frequently. Spending a lot of money and effort into having people write a lot of mediocre content just for the sake of posting often has been shown to not gain much traction for a company and can be a huge waste of time and resources. Instead, it's important to focus on posting strategic, well-written articles or other content, bonus points if they are relevant to any current news stories. This can have a far more meaningful impact on your social media engagement with your followers and helps to prevent you from becoming labeled as a clickbait-generating site, which can greatly damage your company's reputation.