Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram … social media may have been conceived in a college dorm but it's now an integral part of professional life for millions of Aussies.
In the work sphere, it's a double-edged sword, offering the simultaneous chance to position oneself as a thought leader and an unparalleled opportunity to present to the world as a clueless prat.
How do you avoid doing the latter and potentially damaging your chances of climbing the greasy pole on in the process?
For starters, set parameters for the way you use different platforms and stick to them, career management specialist Edwin Trevor-Roberts advises.
He suggests maintaining demarcation between Facebook and LinkedIn. LinkedIn for colleagues and business contacts – preferably those you've actually eyeballed or spoken to – and Facebook for friends.
Have a good think about whether workmates actually fall into this category before adding them, Trevor-Roberts advises.
“Do you want your colleagues to see everything you do on Facebook?” he says. “Only accept them onto Facebook if they are a true, genuine friend.”
You're on dangerous ground if you use the platform to bitch about business to 'friends' who are more workmates than mates, career coach Sally-anne Blanshard adds. “It only takes a moment to share.”
Besides inappropriate contact cross-over, what are the other social media bloopers than can dent your career prospects? Executive Style takes a look at the most common.
1. Happy snaps
Children, pets and alcoholic beverages ... fine for your Facebook profile shot. But on LinkedIn? Not so much, says Melbourne PR professional Jocelyn Hunter, who's clocked plenty of offenders on her trawls through the site. She's hired consultants via LinkedIn but wouldn't interview anyone who made this blunder.
“If I saw them there with their cat, I just can't think they would make the grade.”
And don't be tempted to use your wedding photo either, however flattering, Blanshard adds. “Consider a photo that represents you professionally – no buttonhole frangipanis required!”
2. The War and Peace profile
It's a LinkedIn profile, not an epic novel. Sure, you could go on about your achievements for pages – but don't.
You risk being culled by potential employers before you've even had an interview if you can't condense yourself into a succinct summary, Trevor-Roberts says. Like a dating profile, your LinkedIn spiel should give enough details to pique the interest but it needn't be a blow-by-blow account of your rise through the ranks for the past 15 years.
And if your contact details include an inappropriate email address, leave that out too, Trevor-Roberts adds. Sure, Hotdate69@hotmail.com may make your friends smirk but clients and potential employers won't appreciate the humour.
3. Give it a break!
Great to have a social media presence – not so great if it looks like you do nothing but curate your statuses, respond to other people's posts and tweet your musings incessantly.
“Don't be fake or post for posting's sake,” says the head of market development at online payments developer Braintree, Tyson Hackwood.
“Ensure you add some value and show some insight and intelligence – that is what employers are looking for. Post as much original content as you are sharing other people's content.”
4. Tone down the tweets
It's your Twitter account and your opinions are your own, but employers and clients won't see it that way if you start holding forth about work-related topics.
Tweeting can be a good release, particularly for the self-employed whose work is isolating, but don't use it to vent about a particular client or assignment, Conversations of Change career coach Jennifer Frahm cautions.
5. Consider the context
Does your employer have a social business platform for sharing ideas about everything from strategic initiatives to the canteen menu? Don't be lulled into indiscretion by its instant availability and casual vibe. Sure, it might feel like the cyber version of shooting the breeze at the water cooler, but you never know who's watching on. “If senior executives are lurking without understanding the culture and accepted style of engagement, it can create a wrong impression,” Frahm says.
6. Missing in action
For sceptics it may all seem like too much babble and hustle, but opting of social media altogether is less acceptable than it was even a year ago, Trevor-Roberts says.
“The process of recruitment has reversed and people are now Googling you before interview,” he says. “People may lift their eyebrows and ask, 'why are you not on LinkedIn'?”
The CEO of online wine site Vinomofo, Andre Eikmeier, agrees. “A hirer is as likely to cull someone if they can't find any information on you as they are based on information they find, so make sure you've got enough presence out there,” he says. “Google yourself – what do you find?”