The Social Media Balancing Act

Businesspeople in a meetingAt least once a day my brain goes for the e-brake to prevent me from putting my foot in my mouth on Twitter. Honestly, who cares about the guy snoring/drooling on me during my commute? I also make a mental note to check Facebook on Sunday nights to see what pictures need untagging from the weekend. Trust me, they aren’t reminiscent of Girls Gone Wild but the pictures from the latest PRBreakfastClub karaoke night aren’t very flattering either. For the people who think I sound ridiculous I suggest you read Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuck. In it he explains that our resume is much more than a piece of paper.

Vaynerchuck believes our tweets, comments on Facebook, and blog posts are our resumes now. Is that crazy? I constantly battle balancing between keeping my digital resume professional while remaining true to myself. If you look at my tweet stream I don’t only participate in PR chats. You’ll see me dabbling in my guilty pleasures like #idol or #madmen. That means you’ll find me discussing my favorite cocktail that reminds me of the fabulous characters in MadMen and how crazy women can be in The Bachelor. Try this for an example: Google my twitter handle (stina6001) and #madmen. You’ll find out my favorite cocktail. An HR person may find that funny or a bit of an overshare.

Will that really affect my future opportunities? Yes. According to a survey commissioned by Microsoft to see how online reputations impact our lives, it does matter. They interviewed 1,200 hiring and recruitment managers and 1,200 consumers in the U.S., U.K, Germany and France. The survey found 79 percent of U.S. hiring managers and job recruiters researched job applicants online and 70 percent actually rejected candidates based on what they found.

Now I’m not so crazy, right? My favorite thing about Crush It! is that Vaynerchuck stays true to who he is. If you follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his blog you wont find a watered down version of him. His audience, fans and friends know what to expect. If someone stumbles upon the site and doesn’t like what they hear, he’s not about to change for that one person. I completely agree with him but it’s not that easy when you’re starting to build your reputation.

My friends try to live by the rule: Would you want your parents to see/hear/read that? Well that doesn’t apply to everyone, especially not me. Instead I live by the rule: If what you’re going to say is something you would be embarrassed to say aloud, then you should probably refrain. And I always live by respect, especially online. If I disagree with someone’s point of view, thats fine, I want to remain respectful.

Do you agree with Gary Vaynerchuck? How do you balance being yourself and professional at the same time?

(Note: Another great post on the topic: Yes, Virginia, HR Execs Check Your Facebook Page on GigaOM)

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  • Christina – it's either a good thing, or a bad thing that you shared what Gary feels re: our tweets, FB comments, blog posts, etc. now being our resume. I believe it to be true. But now every time I want to passive aggressively tweet about how much I hate how someone passive aggressively tweets…I can't… 😉

  • SaraKate

    Great post, Christina. (I've been meaning to get that book. I really must!) I agree with Gary, but I also think that including the personal with the professional isn't something to be avoided at all costs. Sharing bits of personal information is great, so long as it doesn't become an overshare. I usually play by the rule of: is this helping me, helping someone else, or serving another purpose? I also try to refrain from posting anything in a public forum that I wouldn't share with my boss or coworkers. By the ways of the internet, anyone I work with, have worked with, or have the potential to work with could read just about anything I've posted, so I try to keep that in mind. Of course, that doesn't always prevent me from talking about things like how much coffee I needed to get through a project or how I'm enjoying #madmen 😉

  • Great post Christina! I prefer to think of my tweets, FB comments, blog comments, etc. as a supplement to my resume. So, my resume spells out my credentials and my online conversations back them up (minus the conversations about West Wing, shoes and bags). I think sharing a bit of our personal selves is good too – there are statistics that show that personality fit is one of the top reasons for hiring a specific person (and it's always something I look for when I'm part of the hiring process). If you don't like my tweets or my FB comments, then chances are we aren't going to get along anyway. 🙂

    PS – I've made it so only I can see photos I'm tagged in. Keeps me from having to squint at the PC on Sundays. 🙂

  • Or how much I miss baby Kate right?

    I think personal touches aren't so bad. Plus those are funny and who doesn't want to work with someone who has a sense of humor right?

  • Good post, Christina. It's really easy to forget to be cognizant of these things. Something that's also been a bit of a challenge is how to deal with your friends's comments… especially on Facebook. Your Facebook status could be as completely clean, sane, positive as could be, but a friend could easily sully that message. Do you delete that and risk insulting your friend or leave it and risk looking bad to potential professional contacts? Even if it wasn't you who posted the inappropriate comment, your friends still reflect who you are to many people. It's a tough dilemma.

    Anyway, I think, for us, there needs to be a combination of Vaynerchuck-like qualities and being yourself. My take: you can be yourself without being inappropriate.



  • I'm glad you liked the post. It's been on my mind for a while but Gary's book really just switched the light bulb on.

    I agree, it's the personal touches that I believe actually put you ahead of your competition when interviewing. It's the chemistry you have with your possible colleague that makes a serious impact. So just how one company might disregard my taste in TV shows, the next might ask me about Don Draper's taste in women ;).

  • Ha Brenda I love your tweets about the bags and shoes, we may differ on West Wing ;).

    But you're right, just like I was saying to Sara Kate above, chemistry plays a big role in obtaining a job. And the company the doesn't like what they see probably wouldn't get along with us therefore making an uncomfortable working environment.

    I did the same thing with my photos. Actually just gave up FB all together for Lent. (1.5 days strong! haha)

  • jeffespo

    Christina – this is an interesting point to bring up. While I wear my heart on my sleeve, erm, keyboard, there needs to be some self-censoring. I am sure that Gary won't put everything out there that he is thinking.

    Does he curse, laugh at himself and hold strong opinions, yes, but that is who he is. If that is your personality let it out there.

    One of the benefits of social media is that we have an on-going live resume that shows off our skills and viewpoints. The downside is that you can't be a dumbass and need to hope that your friends think the same way.

    So while you can put yourself out there, also make sure to keep a clean persona minus your GGW-esque pictures on there.

  • stephmajercik

    Great post Christina!
    In some ways I think its unfair the weight employers put on social networking sites, especially Facebook. Just because I may happen to go out on the weekend, doesn't mean I'm not a qualified candidate. Its hard to fully be ourselves online when we have to second guess everything we put out there, and whether or not a HR director is going to cross us off their list of candidates because of one comment online.

    Great insight…will have to get that book!

  • I'll admit it, a few years ago I was looking for an apartment. After receiving a few emails from a broker, I decided to look him up on (pains me to say it) MySpace… a few shirtless pics and sleazy comments later and I couldn't bring myself to do business with him.

    The balance between expressing yourself and earning money is delicate. I suspect that most of us in favor of “being true to ourselves” would rein it in a little bit if we actually lost out on an opportunity.

    Great post, CK!

  • I love that you wrote about this! I'm personally a big supporter of showing who you really are online, but I know that some are wary because it could mean lost opportunities. And I know that none of us are saints, but is it so much to ask to just live your life like the whole world is watching? Not just on social media, but what if we pretended everything we say or do gets broadcast to the whole world?

    I'm all about having some time with your friends and getting a bit silly, but at the same time, we have to realize that absolutely everything we do is part of who we are. Every action is a piece of us, and just because we don't show it online doesn't mean it won't come back to bite us later. If you get in the habit of cursing at work, just not on Twitter, at some point you're still going to offend someone at work, right?

    Maybe I'm being too narrow-minded here. I don't know. I just wish we could all get along! Ha.

  • Stina, in your defense, NO ONE came out looking good after karaoke night. Spoiler alert: we are all terrible singers and love singing lame songs.

  • You're right. Often times people forget about what their friends are posting too. I think you're right there has to be a balance just be appropriate and respectful.

    If we're going to leave a comment on Facebook we should be aware of what others think and decide if it matters or not.

  • beccameyers

    Here's my thing…if I see that you can connect your favorite cocktail to a Madmen character, I kinda think you're cool. Add that to a mostly professional social media profile, and it just shows me you are human.

    If there are statements about keg parties, hating work and getting laid all over the place, I will think twice about hiring that person. It doesnt take a genius to find these profiles, but if you apply for a job and don't link your profiles, is it even fair to judge someone based on that? I don't link my twitter because that is my “personal” link, not my professional one. But it isn't private so what do I do?

    Gary is right in the sense that this information is available for employers to see, but how far is too far when digging for info and hiring someone? No one is perfect and you are bound to find something you dont like on someones personal profile if you look hard enough.

  • Really enjoyed this post! It is definitely a balancing act these days. As someone currently helping hire for my company I will admit that I've gone to see if a couple of candidates are online. A couple of things that always pop to mind:

    1. Judgment: if someone has chosen to not set their privacy for Facebook wisely and then chooses to post inappropriate content that any potential employer can see? I will view that as a bad judgment call and it might make me think twice about hiring them. It is less about the content and more about their inability to proactively make good decisions.
    2. Consistency: if I'm hiring someone to help with my social media I might not care as much about if they include personal info (I'm assuming they'll understand our company's social media policies for our company's social media) but rather for consistency. If you are applying for a position where you need to be knowledgeable about SM and you don't even consistently update your Twitter or blog then I will hardly consider you an “expert”.
    3. Red Flags: of course like you mention Christina, if I see anyone being disrespectful or just hugely inappropriate then I might think about how those qualities would fit in with our culture. Hey in some org. culture posting about your fav cocktail would make you a shoo-in for the spot!

    Great post – definitely got me thinking about my own uses of SM and what I might rethink or where I draw the line for myself as well.

  • beccameyers

    Look what Kelly Cutrone wrote, after I tweeted to Stina: @BeccaMeyers yeah it's relevant #kellonearth is the new social media rules teacher – the housewives are not on twitter – duh

  • You make a valid point Rebecca – I know I can sound like a sailor sometimes and growing up my mom would always tell me to stop. My answer would be, who cares? I'm in my home. But then I would do it with friends and who knows if it would have happened at work if I didn't consciously think about it.

    I think if the world was able to see everything we did, we'd have to be more open minded and less judgmental.

  • Becca I agree with you, I would like to see some personality. No I dont want to hear about keg parties or who you're sleeping with but you wouldn't discuss that openly in a work place either?

    Perhaps we should look at SM similar to a work place. Share funny stories like if you're eating lunch or around the water cooler and information that is useful to your friends whether its a new post or new SM tool. Maybe that would be easier to balance

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