How to nail your online first impression

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Help your career flourish through social media.

Whether you’re searching for a job or you’ve already landed one, your online presence can have quite an impact on your career. So before you put yourself out there to colleagues or prospective employers, it’s important to revamp your social media profile(s) to make the best first impression possible.

Upgrade your profile photos

Your main image should ideally be of your face, at the same distance from the camera as a standard headshot photo. Make sure the lighting is adequate and the background is relatively neutral. Your photo should be a likeness of you now, rather than an old photo from years ago. If you’re connecting with professionals across platforms, it can be helpful to make your profile photos uniform as well.

Use proper spelling and grammar

While language is constantly evolving, that doesn’t mean that you should disregard the rules altogether. Foregoing the guidelines will make you look unprofessional, so keep that in mind when you’re writing. For example, avoid substituting numbers for words (e.g. ‘2’ as ‘to’), using erratic capitalizations, or spelling errors despite autocorrect features.

Clean house

Review your social media accounts every once in a while to make sure there’s no content floating around that you wouldn’t want colleagues or prospective employers to see. This may mean hiding those awkward college party photos and deleting any material that may be offensive.

Be respectful

Social media is host to some pretty heated debates, and unfortunately, manners can be quick to go out the window. No matter what, maintain a level head and write respectful responses when engaging with contacts and strangers alike. Your contacts may have your comments appear on their newsfeeds, so don’t assume that “small” comments on other people’s material won’t be widely seen.

Select your platforms

There are plenty of social media platforms out there to choose from. This doesn’t mean you need to be on all of them. Even just one is sufficient. And if you’re going to pick just one, go with LinkedIn, the largest of the professional networks. Unlike others, LinkedIn displays your professional history, as well as recommendations and skill endorsements. You’ll also have a chance to join niche professional groups to boost your networking. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have their own advantages, too, but LinkedIn is a must for professionals.

Develop your personal brand

While your social media accounts don’t need to be all business all the time, you’ll want to have an overall theme that conveys who you are as a professional. You can communicate this by posting relevant articles, getting a discussion going, or sharing helpful materials.

Use key words

For professionals taking to social media as part of their job hunt, try to saturate your profile with keywords—but don’t overdo it. In your bio and personal details, make it clear what industry you’re in and what your major skills are. Doing so may also give your profile a boost in rankings when it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), making it easier for people to find you.

While social media is one of the most popular avenues of connecting on the Internet, it’s not the only one. You may wish to make your introductions and first impressions via email, videoconferencing system, or other online outlets. In any case, just be sure to be as courteous as you would be if the meetings were in person, and represent your personal brand in any medium.

David Grover is a Communications Manager at Timeo, a useful tool for businesses in the UK. He’s also a freelance career coach, who’s always eager to share his experience. In his free time he enjoys travelling.

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