Since the inception of social media, I have held separate personal and professional accounts. Although most of my social media presence has always been for professional use. I currently only use Facebook and Instagram for personal purposes. Even for those two platforms, I separate contacts. I use Facebook to stay connected with high school and college friends. Instagram is only for my immediate family, in which I share pictures of my son and me. I started separating everything for privacy reasons but also for professional ones. Being a relatively new business owner when social media began, I wanted to brand myself alongside my company. I wanted to make sure I presented myself in such a way to be taken seriously online.
My approach holds even more validity today, considering this New York Times article enlightening readers that the web never forgets what is shared there for everyone to see. Having understood that things stay on the internet forever, this has always played a role in the content I have shared on social media. I have unfortunately posted inaccurate content online that I have since deleted and hope it will stay that way. My friends thankfully alerted me to the questionable content I posted. The embarrassment I felt paved the way for me to only post content that could positively impact my audience. Dr. Dawn Gilpin affirmed that the content we post online becomes a presentation of who we are, combining our personal and aspirational selves. What I did not realize in my approach to social media was that I was constructing my online “professional self” all along. I began building my online identity with the end result in mind. The end result was how my audience perceived me or my “construed identity,” as Dr. Gilpin described.
I have had many conversations with new beauty professionals on this topic. I often get asked how can they remain true to themselves online while comingling professional contacts on their personal social media accounts. I ask these beauty professionals whether they would want a prospective employer or client to see what they posted? I advised them not to add professional contacts so they do not have to worry about seeing a post that could jeopardize that relationship. Professional connections need to be kept to a single social platform, like LinkedIn. Dr. Gilpin also confirmed this strategy in the video I linked above. I think this strategy is necessary since 70% of employers are looking at social media accounts in hiring decisions, as highlighted in a PayScale article. 54% of the employers polled said they rescinded a job offer because of a person’s social profile. Social media should be a fun outlet, not a roadblock to career aspirations. Interestingly, the Payscale article also says that 57% of employers are not inclined to set an interview with someone who is not found online. Having a profile online is necessary for future employment opportunities, but setting strict privacy on personal accounts is vital
When I share my social media approach with people, they instantly say, “that sounds like too much work.” To me, it is too much work worrying about what I post online that may come back and haunt me later. It is super easy when I post content to think of it as personal or professional context. If the content is of a personal nature, it goes on my private social platform. If the content benefits my professional aspirations, I post it on LinkedIn and occasionally on Twitter. I prefer LinkedIn for the same reasons Dr. Gilpin stated in her video. LinkedIn has, in my experience, remained a positive platform where business professionals support and lift each other up. The challenge I have with my approach to social media is when a colleague becomes a close friend, and I get asked about my personal social profile. It is a tough conversation when I tell them that my personal account is only for family and high school friends. I use the excuse that I do not want my family to be bombarded with business stuff. This excuse usually pacifies my colleague friends, and the topic does not come up again. I remain a big advocate for not comingling private and professional content.