The 3 Biggest Social Media Snafus That Can Cost You the Job

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By Robin Madell

"Better safe than sorry" is the motto job seekers and employees alike should adopt when it comes to posting on social media. "Many underestimate the reach of social media," says David Hoffeld, CEO of Hoffeld Group. "Social media is search-engine friendly, and many wrongly assume that when they post something, only those they are connected with will see it. In today's world, employers, co-workers and potential customers and future employers are searching online to learn more about you."

Hoffeld adds that this enhanced exposure is the "new normal," so being careless about what types of content you post can cost you a job. Making mistakes on social media isn't uncommon. According to a new report from Nexgate Proofpoint, the average Fortune 100 firm now has 320 social media accounts, with an average of 213,539 commenters (including followers) and more than 1,159 employees making more than 500,000 posts to these accounts. The research shows that the average firm had 69 unmoderated compliance validations over the past year, with employees responsible for 12 of these violations.

Devin Redmond, vice president and general manager of Nexgate Proofpoint, notes that employees are now regularly balancing professional and personal social media identities – and they're wrong to believe a line exists between the two.

"The informal, fast-paced nature of social media discussions create an environment where employees are far more likely to unintentionally share insights or information about their work," he says. "Often, security concerns, compliance implications and issues regarding fair disclosure are the last things on their mind." Redmond adds that it's critical for employees to remain mindful of the content they share on social media channels and ensure that it doesn't put their employer – and their own career – at risk.

Here are three common errors on social media that can keep job seekers from getting hired and get employees fired:

Careless posting. Dashing off a tweet as you race into a meeting might not be so smart. According to Jobvite's 2014 Social Recruiting Survey, 66 percent of recruiters reconsidered candidates because of spelling and grammar errors in their social profiles.

While you're at it, slow down and reread your post to make sure it's not offensive. The same survey found that 63 percent of recruiters have negatively reconsidered candidates based on finding profanity in their profiles. Illegal drug references top the list of content to avoid, with 83 percent of recruiters reconsidering candidates because of them. Posts with sexual content run a close second, with 70 percent of recruiters thinking twice about hiring candidates who post that type of content.

Val Matta, vice president of business development at CareerShift, adds some context to these trends: "It might go without saying, but what candidates do in their spare time and broadcast to the world through social media speaks volumes about their personal values and culture. The hiring manager knows that, in hiring that person, they'll likely bring those values and culture into the office. So it must align with, or contribute positively to, the organization's current culture."

Dishing dirt about former or current bosses, employers or colleagues. It's tempting to vent when you're feeling annoyed after a bad day at work, and social media makes it so easy to do so. But beware of being critical of employer, bosses or co-workers online, even if you no longer work with them. "Everyone has a bad day once in a while, but incessant complaining about a company or boss – and even worse, the online spreading of rumors or gossip – can lead a potential (or current) employer to view a candidate as overly negative or a potential threat to the morale of the company," says Greg Moran, founder and CEO of Chequed.com.

Kris Ruby, president of Ruby Media Group, adds that people often get fired for complaining openly about their boss online. "This may seem like a basic no-brainer," she says. "But, believe it or not, your boss is more social media savvy than you think. And even if they aren't, they have people around them who are social media savvy who will let them know if you are complaining about them. Most companies have a zero-tolerance policy toward this that will lead to immediate termination."

Failing to take control of your digital identity. It's not only what you post but what you remove from your social media profiles that makes a difference. Jennifer Lee Magas, vice president at Magas Media Consultants LLC, notes that in today's digital age, you are your brand. To manage this brand successfully, you should conduct a thorough search of your name via Google, Bing and Yahoo.

"Don't rely only on privacy settings. Remove every potential inappropriate post or picture, and always keep language and grammar in mind," she says. Magas advises cleaning up your social media profiles by setting tighter controls on sites you can control and using privacy settings to limit who can view your information. For example, on Twitter you can use "Protect my Tweet," and on Facebook you can use "Lists" to group different people together, like professional connections.

If in doubt about what to keep and what to remove from your social profile, Magas suggests considering a simple test: "If you won't say it to 60,000 people, don't put it online."
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