Published: Tues., Sept. 3, 2019
If you are reading this, there is a good chance you have at least one social media account. Seventy nine percent of Americans between the ages of 18-49 have a Facebook account, and roughly 55 percent have Instagram (Perrin & Anderson, 2019). With everyone being so connected, what steps can you take to protect your professional reputation while still enjoying your online freedom? Are there benefits of social media that you can use to your advantage? We'll take a closer look and provide some helpful tips for creating a professional social media presence.
Since Facebook became public in 2006, people all over the world have been using social media to connect with their family and friends. As a graduate student, you are certainly welcome to share personal posts, just like anyone else on the platform! But it's always important to remember who can see your content. That picture of your puppy playing in the park- share it! The post venting about your professor and a semester's worth of pent up frustrations? Maybe Twitter or Facebook isn't the most appropriate place to express those feelings. Even if you set your profiles to private, there is always a way for people to find content once it's online. As soon as you put something on social media, you no longer control the narrative. Even if you delete the post, you don't know who's already seen it or copied it. Numerous people have learned this the hard way, so it's always wise to think of your advisor/boss/parent reading your post before you click send.
It's always important to be aware of your words and actions online. While the First Amendment protects you from the government prohibiting your speech or sending you to jail, it does not protect you from all other consequences. Students have been expelled for posting comments that violated the institution’s student code of conduct policy, even when they were posted off-campus. Future employers can also check social media when they are looking to hire you. But it’s not all bad news, and you don’t need to rush out and delete your accounts! A “study found that 58 percent of employers conduct social screenings to look for information supporting a candidate's qualifications for the job, 50 percent want to ensure the candidate has a professional online persona, and 34 percent want to see what other people are posting about the candidate. Just 24 percent of those surveyed check social media to search for reasons not to hire someone” (Driver, 2018).
So, what can you do to create a positive social media presence, and why is it important to have different accounts as a graduate student? For starters, social media is a great way to network with people. You can follow people you meet at conferences, students in your program, or other academics around the country. You can share resources and find other students who will understand what you’re going through. Sharing your publications and research with your social media followers is an excellent way to bring attention to your work, and will often reach a wider audience than just the original publication.
For professional and educational purposes, LinkedIn and Twitter are great platforms to network and build your brand. Both platforms are designed to help you connect with people in a professional and academic setting if you use them correctly. Instagram is primarily for sharing photos and is perfect for marketing and brand promotion. Facebook can be helpful if you want to create an event or group page to share information with a large group of people. For more information on how to use social media platforms to build your network as a graduate student and in future job searches, come to the Graduate Studies workshop on October 3rd. You can find more information on our website at go.unl.edu/gradevents.
Creating a positive social media presence can be easy once you get the hang of it. Here are a few tips to consider:
- Create dialogues by asking questions and engaging with people when they comment on your posts. Social media doesn’t have to be a one-way street.
- Check your accounts often. People are more likely to follow you and engage if you post regularly. However, if social media becomes too distracting, set a time limit on your phone so you don't waste hours scrolling aimlessly.
- Use hashtags wisely. Learn if there are specific hashtags people in your field use, as these can bring in a larger audience. But don’t go overboard, limit each post to a few main hashtags.
- It’s ok to share other people’s articles, but people are more excited to follow accounts that share original content. If you do share someone else's article or post, provide context for why you are choosing to share.
- Show off your personality, and have fun! Share a funny meme or picture of your crazy cat to develop personal connections.
- Don’t post when you’re angry. A good rule is to wait 24 hours after something happens to give yourself time to calm down before you hit tweet/post/send.
Resources and Additional Reading:
Driver, S. (2018, October 7). Keep it clean: social media screenings gain in popularity. Business News Daily. Retrieved from https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/2377-social-media-hiring.html
Gulliver, K. (2012, May 9). Ten commandments of Twitter for academics. Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.chronicle.com/article/10-Commandments-of-Twitter-for/
Perrin, A., & Anderson, M. (2019, April 10). Share of U.S. adults using social media, including Facebook, is mostly unchanged since 2018. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/04/10/share-of-u-s-adults-using-social-media-including-facebook-is-mostly-unchanged-since-2018/