Julie Ferguson posted an excellent article to HR Web Café entitled “Social Networking as a Tool for Hiring and Detecting Employee Fraud.” If you participate in your company’s hiring process, I would encourage you to read the article. I strongly concur that employers should check people out online sometime before an offer is made. In my article “Are Your Employees Interesting?” David LaPlante describes how he uses the Web not to avoid potential problem employees but to find remarkable ones.
If you are an employee, is it good news that employers are checking you out online? I think it is GREAT news!
You should anticipate that employers will check you out and prepare to be impressive online. The Web is NOT a playground – it is one of the most effective things that employees have at their disposal to document and communicate how they can make a consistently valuable contribution to a potential employer. If you treat the web as a tool and not a toy, it has tremendous potential to help you differentiate yourself from the competition for the next job you want.
The most important thing you need to keep in mind as you get started with social media is you have NO PRIVACY online. Privacy is a myth perpetuated by sites like Facebook that want you to believe that only your “friends” can and should see what you are doing. Any privacy you think you have online is truly virtual. You can’t be truly effective with Web 2.0 if you behave as if you have something to hide.
You should never post anything online that you would not be comfortable with ANYONE viewing anytime. If you want privacy, pick up the phone and call or invite your friends over to your house. It is a totally unrealistic expectation to think you can have privacy online.
This idea of “friends only” also sets you up for conflict with colleagues, customers, potential employers and other people you know. If a colleague requests access to view your site and you deny that access, what does that do for your relationship? What if a potential employer sees you have a Facebook account and asks to connect with you there – is your site set up in such a way that you have no need to hesitate complying with the request?
If you deny someone’s request to connect to you, they will have a gut-level, emotional reaction to your behavior that will not be favorable. They may forgive you for offending them, but they will not soon forget.
But you should be PERSONAL at your sites. Share something about yourself and post some pictures that reflect what you are comfortable sharing. If you went to Burning Man , please show us pictures of art work, the Playa, and the man; however, save those pictures of you drunk and dressed like a clown for friends in your living room. We network and form relationships with real people, so please do be personal – just don’t be stupid.
If you hang on to the notion of being personal but let go forever of the notion of privacy, you will operate your social network sites entirely differently and in my opinion much more effectively.
Treat Facebook like a coffee shop, not your living room!