Social media is a fun place to be. We gather with friends, argue with others, and share our lives with the world around us. It can also be a boom or a bust when it comes to seeking employment. Statistically over half of employers will look online for additional information on prospective employees. For obvious reasons, this can be either a problem or an advantage. There are two main areas here that need to be addressed. The first is making sure your profiles don't work to your disadvantage. The second is to make sure you're putting your very best foot forward. So how is this done?
Easily the social media property with the potential to cause the most headaches is Facebook. This is due in no small part to its popularity and the tendency of people to do with it what it was built to do —communicate with their friends and peers. Out on the town drinking? There's probably a picture of that. Wearing a less-than-professional and barely legal Halloween costume? That's probably in there too. So what do you do?
The first thing to do is lock down your account. In the Privacy Settings you can adjust your tagging and posting options so you'll have to approve any posts or image tags prior to them appearing in your profile. This will ensure that posts or images don't sneak up on you. The next step is to go back through your images and posts and hide problematic ones from your timeline or delete them altogether.
So now your profile is clean; time to share the information that you do want a prospective employer to see. Share information about your industry, maybe even how excited you are to be interviewed by the company you're applying with. When the interview is over, why not compliment the interviewer on your Facebook page? Like the company's Page. This is your chance to show you're genuinely interested in the sector you're applying for a job in and heck, sometimes just a little sucking up goes a long way.
LinkedIn, as we well know, is a professional network. It's where you connect with others in your industry or just others with related interests. If you don't have a LinkedIn profile, get one. You don't have to use it daily, but it's a great way to connect with folks in your industry, at specific companies and with specific interests. The more people you connect with, the larger the network, and the larger the network, the more people you'll connect with. They also allow you to put up your key specs like education, employment, references, etc.
Essentially, this is another place to reinforce your interests and tell a bigger story about who you are and what you're interested in. When others post, you have to approve it before it's added to your profile, so you have full control over what information is presented to your prospective employer.
Employers will use Twitter to find out about you 140 characters at a time. The first step is obviously to go through your Twitter stream and make sure you haven't said anything recently that you'd rather a prospective employer didn't see. The next step is to keep it updated with interesting information related to the industry you’re applying for jobs in and some genuinely interesting things about your personal interests. This may sound like an onerous task, but by using free services like TwitterFeed you can have good, relevant blog posts syndicated out to your Twitter stream. Obviously you don't want a ton of them but grabbing one or two of your favorite sites that you feel reflect on you well and setting their blog posts to automatically be included in your stream will help fill your Twitter presence with information any employer would find favorable.
Why would you want Google+ when no one you know is there? First off, it's a Google property and you might as well get it set up now, as you're going to have to eventually. The biggest reason for this application, however, is that being a Google property allows for a lot of content. This makes it easier to optimize (certainly for your name), and done right you can quickly use it to…
Rank In the Search Results
On top of making sure your social media presence is in good shape you may want to ensure that if someone does a Google search for you, they find favorable information. The easiest way to do this is to find strong properties that you can contribute to (like social media) and create profiles and contribute. You'll likely want to stretch past social media sites and create profiles on strong industry sites. Now, I'm not saying to create a profile and run. That won't work for the site and it won't work for you. You'll have to contribute and take time to create a descriptive, solid profile. This is a two-birds situation where it'll help you show prospective employers that you're staying up on your industry and at the same time, will help you stay up on your industry.
The key is to control the information that’s associated with your name. If a site is going to rank for it, you're far better off if you can control or, at the very least, strongly influence what appears. The alternative is to leave it to chance. Do you trust your friends that much? Now, how about your enemies?
Dave Davies is the CEO of Beanstalk Internet Marketing. Dave has been working as an SEO since 1999 and started Beanstalk in 2004. He writes and speaks regularly on the subject of Internet Marketing and hosts a weekly radio show on WebmasterRadio.fm. Add him on Google+ for more up-to-date tips and information on SEO and Internet Marketing.