Social media is increasingly blurring the lines between professional and personal lives with what people share, how they think, what they do and what they say open to increasing amounts of scrutiny. More and more hiring managers will now be including background searches against potential applicants or candidates, so we all need to bear this in mind and consider what we share and with whom. Our guide will serve as quick overview of what’s worth addressing immediately.

LinkedIn has long been known as the ‘professional social media network’ and despite (or perhaps, because of) its growth to half a billion users, its 2016 acquisition by Microsoft and a number of newer entrants challenging its position, in the UK (and many other countries worldwide) it remains the go-to social media platform for business people. So it’s critical that you manage your LinkedIn profile with this in mind and ensure your online persona reflects how you want to be seen and known professionally.

Some simple tactics can really help here. Use a professional photograph, customise your profile’s URL, update your work history and be clear to explain a little about the company you work(ed) for, as well as the role/responsibilities of your position. Highlight any key achievements and be as specific as you can. Consider rich media (videos, PowerPoint decks, PDF brochures, etc.) as these can be easily embedded in your profile, making it look much more engaging.

One thing to note is that if you don’t want people to know you’re making all these changes to your profile, you need to make a quick change in your privacy settings so that others aren’t notified when you’re creating your profile masterpiece. Just change the ‘sharing profile edits’ section to ‘no’.

To many, after MySpace and earlier social media networks, Facebook is the original social media network. But for plenty of people it differs from LinkedIn as it’s arguably much more family and friend oriented, than business focused. So it’s definitely worthwhile reviewing your privacy settings and ensuring you’re comfortable with what you’re sharing.

Some business sectors work really well on Facebook and rely on it for much of their interaction with their customers – think retail, leisure and entertainment here, for example – but maybe you need to question whether your holiday or family photos are really what you want to be sharing with the world, let alone any prospective employer or hiring manager. Whether you think it’s right or not, our advice is that it’s best to keep your profile private and maintain a professional online presence.

As with Facebook, Twitter allows you to protect your Tweets so that only those people you permit to follow you can see what you’re Tweeting. Whether you do this depends on what you use Twitter for. If you’re just commenting on the latest Love Island or Celebrity Big Brother events, that’s all fine… but if you’ve perhaps got some more contentious views or love Tweeting after a few too many drinks, it may not be advisable sharing your thoughts with the world (and of course, any prospective employers or hiring managers).

Equally, Twitter can be a great business tool – and used properly, allows you to follow companies you admire, that you’re maybe interested in working at, and following recruiter accounts (e.g. @harrisonsandsUK) to keep abreast of all the latest jobs they’re recruiting for. It’s fast-paced and often updated in real-time by companies and individuals that use the platform well – and can be a fantastic way of reaching out to and engaging with people.

Wrapping it up
So now you’ve reviewed your social media accounts and made the necessary changes, you’ll hopefully be better prepared to be active online. But before you congratulate yourself on a job well done and move on, it’s best to test that everything looks as it should externally. Here’s where it’s helpful to ask a friend or colleague to double-check that what you think you’ve done is working as expected. Ask them to check that your holiday photos are really hidden on Facebook, or your drunken Tweets are now protected. If they are, it’s a job well done. If not, go through the processes again and make sure you’ve not missed anything.

Ultimately, remember online networking is still networking. Be proactive and cultivate the right image and you’ll be well positioned to develop the kind of professional business network that will serve you and your career well.