The online you
Jane McGuire

The online you

How to use social media professionally

First published date July 24 2014 Amended date August 08 2014

We live in a world of social media. From Facebook to Instagram, we share details of our lives with our friends, followers and strangers each day. Although most posts are harmless fun, when it comes to employability and social media in the workplace, there are important factors to consider.

When arriving at an interview, it’s more than likely that your future employer has ‘googled’ you, found you on Facebook, searched your Twitter and read your blog. This can be a bad thing if you have something to hide, but with the help of Google Plus and blogging sites, making your work accessible is a great way to build an online portfolio. Whether you are a complete beginner, an avid social networker or want to learn more about social media for business, there are lots of courses available to help you get the public/private balance right.


Facebook – Learning when to click ‘not now’

It’s amazing how much you can find out about your colleagues from their Facebook page – where they went on holiday, what they look like after an evening in the pub and what they get up to at the weekend. Even if your profile is private, past cover pictures, albums and statuses can often still be seen, so think twice before you share something you would rather your boss didn’t see. To check what others can see when your name is searched, you can view your profile as ‘public’ in privacy shortcuts. If you do accept your boss as a friend, remember your audience when you are posting selfies or writing that Monday morning ‘I hate my job’ status.


Twitter – A tweet away from trouble

Tweets are slightly harder to protect and can easily cause offence (in less than 140 characters). School boy errors like talking about colleagues or how awful your day was is always risky. When trying to present a happy and positive ‘I’m a team player’ persona in the interview room, don’t shoot yourself in the foot by having a Twitter feed full of aggressive arguments. What’s more, if your job title is included in your Twitter headline, remember that any controversial views could easily be associated with those of the company, which could easily get you into, hashtag, trouble.


LinkedIn – What not to do

When it comes to business, LinkedIn is the most important social media site around. Everyone with a profile is either in work or searching for a job, so this is not the place to share details about your private life. Think of LinkedIn as a virtual CV, not a blog.

There are some key differences between LinkedIn and other social media sites and some common errors that need to be avoided.

  1. Choose your profile picture carefully – This isn’t Facebook, so no boyfriends, no pets and no beach selfies (this is a job hunt not a dating website). Our Hotcourses test is ‘would I be happy to email this image to my grandma?’ – If the answer is no, it’s more than likely this is not LinkedIn material. Research suggests you are seven times more likely to have your profile viewed when you do include a profile image, so not including one can seriously cut job prospects. Another key statistic suggests that men and women using an old photo are less likely to impress employers in the interview room - if you now have grey hair, the LinkedIn you should too.
  2. A white lie can often open a can of worms – As TV journalist Lisa Ling said, ‘Facebook is the life that we want people to believe we lead.’ LinkedIn on the other hand is very different. As a professional social networking site, it is likely you may share connections with future work colleagues – the world is often much smaller than you think. If you tell a white lie on LinkedIn you will be picked up on it eventually, so just don’t!
  3. Do not over exaggerate connections – If you work in the sales team for Conde Nast, it is unlikely you have worked with Anna Wintour, so don’t claim you have done.
  4. Privacy settings – We all know how to protect our Facebook accounts, but most of us forget about these when using LinkedIn. If you are job hunting whilst in your current job, a sudden rush of updates on your page could quickly cause suspicion.
  5. Don’t disappear – It is almost better to have no profile than one you updated in 2009. Companies don’t want to guess what you are doing and won’t be impressed by a blank page with no connections.


Social media for business

Despite being a recreational way of connecting with friends for most of us, 90% of companies use social media to build their reputation and client base. Coca Cola has 86 million likes on facebook, whilst Burberry has over 13 million. Most companies will invest time and knowledge into their social presence, so learning about the likes of google plus and social networking will be a beneficial addition to your CV. With plenty of courses available on social media for business, there are full time options to learn new skills in your current job, or at home after work to boost your career prospects.


Don’t forget!

  • Not to use your personal email address you made when you were fourteen. If an employer is impressed by your Linkedin profile, they might lose interest if they have to email you at
  • Social media sites often don’t have spelling checkers and depending on the role you are going for this could be important. If you are likely to make errors, typing into Word and then pasting onto the site can avoid mistakes.


Frightened? Don’t be, an intoxicated picture here and there will not cost you your job, but be aware of the ‘online you’ that others can see. To learn more, a social media course can answer any questions and teach you important skills, which are becoming more and more attractive to employers. Like. 

Jane McGuire

Jane McGuire received her BA (English) from the University of Loughborough. A yoga enthusiast with a sweet tooth, in her spare time you will probably find Jane in the gym or online shopping.