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I always spend this time of year getting around to those things I was too busy for last year. Like paying more attention to my online marketing and my social and business networks, not to
mention upgrading my grasp and comfort with the Internet.

Realizing that companies are announcing enormous job cuts, I thought it timely to write an e-letter on how to safeguard your reputation, and how to project the right image on social networks
in case you are looking for new employment in the future. I hear more and more stories about people sabotaging their career prospects with inappropriate behavior on networks and forums. Always remember that you are the ambassador for your company as well as yourself.

Despite the risks, I think social media and online networking present tremendous opportunities to build your brand. The trick is to use these tools strategically.

So I thought who better to consult than my own virtual colleagues? I asked my LinkedIn connections to relate their experiences with social networking faux pas. Their responses
were overwhelming, consensual and on-point that I want to share them with you.

Separate Your Social And Business Networks

This would seem to be self-explanatory, but many people use LinkedIn (a business network) the same way they use Facebook or Twitter (social networks). You don't want prospective employers or your boss and colleagues to see those pictures from the Super Bowl bash or read your colourful if incoherent midnight ramblings.

As John Froelich wrote: "There was a sales rep on a team with a large social networking site. Since this person was younger, and they are very adept at using their sites and updating with their feelings regularly, two things happened: 1. There were some pictures of this person in rather provocative poses that made you wonder. 2. The same individual had a bad day and posted
things about part of their management team. Unfortunately, they forgot that they included their boss and colleagues in the "notify of updates." Thus the boss and some colleagues learned
of the person's discontent. So keep your networks separate, and keep your social network private, so that others can't post embarrassing pictures or comments."

Another of my contacts wrote: "As a hiring manager myself, I always Google a potential hire, and one applicant did have a rather bizarre blog that, I'll be honest, it factored into my "fit" assessment and he didn't go further in our hiring process."

Be Ve-W-W-Wy, Ve-W-W-Wy Careful
 
About whom you invite to connect with you, who you link with, and who you recommend. There are serial network users who simply collect as many connections and links as they can. They are at worst internet joiners and name hoarders, not networkers; still not as harmful as those who lurk
around and ask every incoming connection to recommend them. Do not connect with anyone without having a previous professional or personal relationship with them; do not recommend anyone unless you are familiar with their work.

While you are at it, be careful what you post. Poor postings, questionable subject matter, risky opinions, and bad grammar and spelling all reflect badly on your company, your professionalism,  your reputation, your image, your name and thus your brand. Maintain decorum and don't be too familiar with people unless you get comfort clues from them. This stuff never goes away! Even if
deleted, Google and The Wayback Machine can find it.

Don’t Exaggerate

Well, we've sure been here before.  People have padded their accomplishments and résumés since Fred Flintstone applied for a job at Mr. Slate's gravel pit. Guess what?  It's easier to get caught than it used to be. I loved this response from a colleague: "I suspect people have always done this. When inflated accomplishments are broadly available on the web, it can be a big risk to the individual. There are apparently several people who had the same role in the same
company as I did at the same time!"

Keep those Updates Coming

It is disheartening to think you have found a hot lead, a promising candidate or a fabulous idea, only to visit a site and find a moldy profile or posting from three years ago. I think Larry Lynam put it best:" I see some people who are still listing as 'current positions' places where I know they haven't worked in years. They may be inadvertently giving a wrong impression."

They sure are, Larry. Wrong impressions as in: I'm too lazy to update; you're not important enough; I'm happy as a clam where I am and never want to move; actually, I haven't been employed for a while and don't want to admit it.

While I have Larry's response, here's another good point he makes about how yesterday's cleverness can become today's embarrassment.  I also seen some rather startling email addresses…. Just like one wardrobe is not appropriate for all occasions, neither is a clever email address…. Perception is reality, and innuendo may open doors you did not intend and keep closed those you would really have found beneficial."

Hands Off!

Intellectual property violations and plagiarism in the Internet age have becoming increasingly rampant and contentious, but the rule remains, if you didn't write it or record it, it's not yours. Actually, it's theft. On that subject, please welcome Kelley Robertson: "It isn't really a faux pas, but it certainly could tarnish someone's reputation. I have had several other sales trainers use my material in their blog without crediting the source, which gave the impression
that they wrote the articles. I discovered this when people from my list contacted me about it."

Just Two More Things

Courtesy of Randall Craig, author and online marketing whiz, who literally wrote the book on online PR and social marketing and whose wisdom informs these humble hints:

Be Consistent
If your image is inconsistent across your various sites, it will raise a red flag. Have a seamless persona. At the same time, make sure there are no embarrassing or out-of-brand images of you posted on these sites. It raises a redder flag. Visit your sites frequently, update and tweak
when necessary.

Prevent Identity Theft
And to ensure you are being represented properly, make sure you claim your profile on the three key profile aggregator sites. Details on how to do this are available from Randall at www.OnlinePRSocialMedia.com 

Finally, a great big thank you to Anna Fredericks, whose telephone conversation gave me this idea, and especially to all my LinkedIn connections who gave their time and opinions
unstintingly to help make it happen.

There are no borders anymore. Cyber-travel can result in unforeseen consequences for you and your company if you opt out of managing your personal brand. Build a reputation that stands for integrity and respect for others.

Partner with those who can benefit from your connections and reach out to those in transition. Do take advantage of the opportunities through online networking; just don't take advantage of the people.

About the Author:

Roz Usheroff founder of The Usherhoff Institute has gained an international reputation for helping others achieve results. She is skilled at executive coaching, management development, sales training, and individual consulting. She can be reached at (800) 844-2206 or via email at Contactus@usheroff.com



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