I’ve seen quite a few recent blog posts addressing the image we portray on Facebook. And it’s understandable why the topic gets so much attention. After all, a site with more than 300 million active users gets a lot of traction.
Here’s my take on Facebook: use it however you want, but choose the right privacy settings.
Facebook and Me
For me, Facebook is a social playground.
In college, I never had a camera for more than a few months, so I adored Facebook photo albums. I loved when I opened my inbox expecting another boring assignment, but instead a “tagged Facebook photos” e-mail appeared. My friends and I commented back and forth on the pictures, laughing and rehashing whatever event we got ourselves into. Status updates and postings on friends’ walls also were quick and easy ways to keep in touch. Facebook was fun and refreshing, and it furthered my connections with friends.
Now that I’m done with college and away from friends, looking back at the photos of our adventures reminds me of priceless memories. I don’t want to delete those memories because of a beer pong table. Facebook gives me easy access to nearly every person I met in college with the click of a button. Facebook is still fun and social, and I want it to stay that way.
Facebook Privacy Settings
You don’t have to click through the 893 tagged photos of you on Facebook and mull over which ones you should de-tag. You can simply choose who sees what.
Privacy settings are your friend. Through this page, you can:
- Control who sees what information on your profile
- Control who can search for you
- Control the recent activity that appears on your profile
- Control what information is available to Facebook applications
You can use Facebook “friends lists” as an easy shortcut. Here, you could make lists, such as “Friends”, “Family” and “Professional”, and use different privacy settings for each. You could give your friends access to all your photos, but limit visibility of professional contacts.
Another alternative is to create both a personal and professional version of your profile. By keeping these separate, you decrease the likelihood of questionable material appearing on your wall or profile.
For more detailed privacy tips, this post gives 10 of the best Facebook privacy settings you should know how to use.
Choose Your Networks
I don’t link to my Facebook profile on my Student Branding bio. In fact, only two contributors do. How many link to their Twitter and/or LinkedIn profiles? Eleven.
There are no photo albums or poking or Farmville on LinkedIn. It is a networking tool that connects professionals, facilitates industry related discussions and hosts your resume and professional bio. Here is a great Student Branding post about beefing up your LinkedIn profile.
Twitter is another easy way to put your image and ideas out there—in updates of 140 characters or less. Next week, I will write a getting started post for those of you that don’t quite “get” how to use Twitter for personal branding. Up until I graduated six months ago, I was stumped as to why or how anyone used it, so I hope the upcoming post will prove helpful to people.
There are many other tools that can be addressed in subsequent posts, but the main point is: choose where you want to leave your mark.
But What About Consistency?
You decide which personal branding tools to use, therefore you control the consistency.
You already know that recruiters will look at social network profiles, so be consistent with your public ones. Wow them with stellar LinkedIn recommendations or a stream of thought-provoking Twitter updates. First impressions are crucial; don’t take your online image lightly.
But recruiters should understand—and respect—that you want to keep some of your personal life (Facebook) strictly personal. Unless you live, eat and breathe work, you will have a personal life that is different than your professional. This isn’t a lack of consistency; it’s leading a normal life.
And by all means, invite professional contacts to view your Facebook profile if you like, but be sure to clean it up as you see fit.
Personal branding is never black and white, because it all comes down to a subjective decision on the part of the individual. On Student Branding, we offer our ideas, opinions and what we have seen work best, but it is up to you to take the tools presented and decide how they best apply to your personal situation and image.
Cassie is a May 2009 University of Wisconsin-Madison Ag Journalism graduate. She recently unfolded her passion for public relations during her short stint as a PR consultant for a Madison, Wis. area non-profit and is looking to dive into the field professionally. Find Cassie on Twitter, BrazenCareerist, and LinkedIn