I remember my mother telling me when I was younger, “The people you associate with affect your reputation.” When I was 14, I’m not sure I believed her or cared. However, now that I’m a Mom, and my daughter is social networking, I care! I try to be objective and not lecture her too much about some of the photos that I see on her friends’ profiles (and I’m happy to report that pictures with middle fingers and tongues stuck out don’t appear on her Facebook).
PR and branding starts when you’re young – when you don’t really care. It becomes more important when you’re in high school and applying to a college and then when you graduate college and apply for a job. I read Patrice-Anne Rutledge‘s book, The Truth About Profiting from Social Networking and she devoted a section of the book to how recruiters and potential employers scour Facebook and MySpace profile pages to get to the “skinny” or truth about a potential employee; something a resume just wouldn’t tell you. Your profile can say too little, too much or it can give just enough information to have someone want to learn more about you (that’s the most positive scenario).
I’ve been asked at conferences, “So, how much should you put in your profile so that you don’t damage your image and reputation?” You want to be thorough, yet you don’t want to provide too much information? Here’s what I tend to avoid in my profile on a social network:
- Religious beliefs
- Political affiliations (even my tweets and status updates are neutral)
- Photos that present my colleagues, friends, family or anyone that I associate with in a questionable way. Note: My brand is representative of the company I keep.
- Specific names of family members, addresses and locations of residence (you just never know who watching)
- Information in the form of updates regarding my business and/or client work that is too specific and not considered “approved” communication by legal and/or communications
- Very personal information that I would share with a close friend (who just may be on Facebook with me). Social networks mix business and pleasure so you have to be cognizant of personal info that posted for all of your contacts to see.
There’s a good chance that if you want to sabotage your reputation or damage your career, then too much info in your profile just may be the way to go about it. Now, I’m not saying that a profile should look like a resume after all social networking is about people and relationships, so you do have to share to get the dialogue going. However, there’s a limit and it’s up to you to decide how much or how little you want to offer depending on your purpose for engaging in that social network. Any thoughts on what you would avoid in your profile and why?