Your social media profiles are a window for the world to discover the person you really are. Particularly if you are an avid social media user, you will probably see the opportunities that these platforms bring to you as a positive. However, as with everything in life, there are downsides to using social media. At least, there are if you do not do it properly.
Modern Uses for Social Media
Today, social media is more than merely a platform for users to connect with their friends and stay in touch in one place, without the need to send an SMS or make a phone call. Of course, people still use social media for these reasons, but due to their public nature, a lot of the time anyone can access your profile and discover anything they want to about you. Naturally, this means you want to ensure that you are minding your “p’s and q’s” online, especially as one ill-advised social timeline update could potentially change your life.
Who might be using social media to find out whom you really are?
- Senior intake consultants at higher education institutions; if you are applying to a top University with a great reputation, you will be expected to uphold that in every element of your life
- Job recruitment teams; if you hold controversial views on a particular subject, or regularly post photos of yourself clubbing on Friday with “hangover” updates on Saturday, you are not going to be in the frame for a weekend position
- Potential partners; if you have a profile on Match, eHarmony, or another popular dating site, expect people to look past this and try to find out more about you via social networks
The Importance of Social Media
It is clear, then, just how important social media can be in our lives. Your social content can influence your employment, education, and potential future relationships. Before you start considering how you can be a winner when it comes to social media, or at least ensuring you are not potentially ruining your life with hasty and flippant remarks, it is worth finding out which type of social media user you are. UK-based banking group First Direct recently conducted a piece of research into social media habits; these were the findings.
What is Your Social Media Type?
According to First Direct, most of us fit into one of nine categories in respect of social media, although we have combined two of them owing to their similarity. Check out the table below. Do you see yourself in any of these groups?
What It Means
These people cannot get enough of social media and find every excuse to log into their profiles at any point during the day. Ultras are usually happy to admit their obsession.
The ultra who does not want to admit to needing their social media fix, despite spending as much, if not more, time using social networks as those who admit to doing so.
Everything the denier wants to be. A social dipper has active accounts yet uses them sporadically, sometimes leaving weeks or even months between log ins.
A social media user who does not frequently update themselves, if at all, but uses networks to keep up with latest news and gossip in their areas of interest.
Social media users who place a lot of currency in their number of friends, followers, likes, retweets, or anything else that might be used as a measure of popularity. More people are peacocks than will ever admit to it.
You probably know these as keyboard warriors; is there a worse type of social media user?
A Ghost or Changeling
Using an anonymous social profile, or using an alias, to avoid identification. Reasons for doing so can be both innocent and sinister.
An Approval Seeker
Similar to the peacock, the approval seeker will constantly log in to their accounts having posted an update checking for responses, likes, or retweets.
Social Media by the Numbers
If you are not yet able to identify yourself, we have some further statistics that might make things clearer:
- 45% of Facebook users identify themselves as a lurker; if you regularly ‘like’ posts but never comment, you are probably in this group
- 20% of people admit they would feel anxious if they had to close their social accounts
- 19% of UK residents claim not to have an active social media account
- 14% of Facebook users spend more than two hours a day on the site, while the same number admits that ‘likes’ or replies are important to them and make them feel better about themselves
- 10% of Twitter users admit that they want to have more followers than their friends
The Magic Number
Some of those numbers are impressive, or scary, depending on your point of view. However, when it comes to being a social media winner, they all lead in one way or another to this next statistic, courtesy of a joint study between Carnegie Mellon University and Facebook themselves.
71% of Facebook Users Self-Censor Their Content to Some Degree
While this study only considered Facebook, it is reasonably safe to assume that the numbers would be similar across other social platforms. Networks such as LinkedIn would probably be even higher, given the business nature of the site.
What is Self-Censorship?
We have all at some point in our lives said something that escaped our lips well before our internal filter kicked in, and told our brain to refrain from doing so. Thankfully, with social media we have extra time to process that thought, while we type an update and prior to pressing ‘send.’ How many times have you typed something into an input box only to think better of sending it and deleting it instead?
Self-censorship is the ability to control our emotions and conclude that the benefits of not posting something outweigh the potential consequences of doing so. If you have something to say that could be controversial or misconceived in a public forum, save it for when you are in the bar or restaurant with a group of your friends. Self-censorship goes beyond deleting something when you receive an unfavorable response; it means filtering out any ‘bad stuff’ completely.
Shining on Social Media
The good news is that you do not necessarily have to change your social media habits in terms of your type; the only real essential is to be in control and consider what you are saying and how it comes across. If you are able to admit to yourself that you are a ranter or keyboard warrior, however, then you might want to consider deleting everything and then starting again.
We are going to assume that you are starting from a clean slate, so that you can build yourself into a respected social media user and be sure to impress anyone who searches you out online, whoever they are.
Where Are You?
Think about the social networks that you are using, and the reasons for doing so. If you are a jobseeker, for example, you might use LinkedIn. Should your reasons for using social media be purely recreational, then you might use Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest; just remember that your content might still matter at some point!
Although you might see social media as a place where people with similar interests get together and discuss shared characteristics, being unique is the best way to win with social media. This does not mean you need to be controversial just for the sake of it, but avoid getting involved in silly hashtags on Twitter or irrelevant discussions elsewhere.
Instead, post witty and thoughtful insights to your timeline, that will make people want to interact with you or at least show that you do not just post things for the sake of it.
Choose to be You
While social media is a bit of a self-managed PR exercise, that does not mean you have to follow the growing trend of social networkers who feel obliged to have an opinion on everything. If an event does not concern you, such as a celebrity death, for example, then do not post ‘thoughts with the family’ just because it looks good.
It is far better to be yourself. People who try to find out about you through social media are interested in your personality as much as your online etiquette. Talk about the things that you know about and are interested in. If you would not talk about something during an informal chat with a friend, do not post about it online.
Beware of Photographs
They say a picture speaks a thousand words, and it is certainly true that a picture can often be our downfall on social media. While you can adjust settings to ensure that you cannot be ‘tagged,’ if there is anything you would rather people did not see you should contact whoever has posted a particular snap and ask for it to be removed.
Post Quality Content
There are two prongs to this point. First, most people do not want to know what you have eaten for breakfast, what you are wearing today, how fast you ran to catch the train, or how angry you are that you do not have a seat on said train.
Second, if an ‘outsider’ sees your content featuring such updates, they will probably think you will not be the most productive person at work, school, or have any time for them as a partner.
If you have nothing better to do than use social media, do not demonstrate that to the rest of the world!
Your parents might have once told you that if you have nothing nice to say, then do not say anything at all. Certainly, this is a warning well heeded when it comes to social media. If you are able to be respectful in everything that you post and the ways in which you interact with people, you will build a favorable picture of yourself both to other social media users as well as to anyone who might search your profile.
Join New Discussions
If you are going to get the most from social media as a personal marketing tool, then this will be an important step in achieving it.
Follow trends related to your industry or areas of interest, and aim to be one of the first to offer some thought leadership or opinion on a breaking news story. If you are applying for a job and a recruitment coordinator sees you demonstrating your knowledge of an industry and ability to act on the latest trends, this will hold you in a positive light.
Use Privacy Settings
We all have a personal life, and many of us want to keep that separated as much as possible from our personal one. Use privacy settings to strike a balance between the two – particularly when it comes to photographs – so that you are able to show anyone who you are and that you are a trustworthy individual without telling them every intimate detail about your life.
When You are Successful
Finally, it is important to remember that these processes are not just necessary when you are trying to acquire a new position or achieve an objective.
Up to 56% of businesses will regularly check Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and view their employees’ activity as well as analyzing these social networks during the recruitment process. All businesses will have a social media policy today. Often, the best approach is to not mention who you work for on your social profile.
If you do, ensure you are aware of these points, and follow them to the letter:
- Even if you are employed in a junior position and work part time, make it clear that your views are your own and in no way reflect those of your employer
- Do not assume you are a spokesperson for the company, and consider eschewing all interaction with any business accounts completely
- Be aware of the conversations you have with colleagues, even through private messaging functions
- Never post anything that someone might construe as negative towards your job. Even the most simple “my boss is annoying” can see you in a disciplinary hearing quicker than you think.
Tackling Social Media
Having to treat social media as a personal shop front, and PR exercise, might seem a boring and inhibiting practice. However, the reality of modern life is that our social media activities can have a huge bearing on our personal and professional success.
Can you afford to take a lackadaisical attitude towards social media and not think before you post? Be a social networking winner and make yourself attractive to everyone, whatever your objectives.
About the Author
Robert is a social media expert who regularly advises both businesses and individuals with regard to appropriate social content. Robert recommends individuals check out the new enthuse.me platform, which allows users to highlight their best achievements and experience to potential employers.