Social media is a powerful communication and marketing tool. However, most people I know have a sworn frenemy relationship with it. If you want to gain notoriety for yourself and/or your intellectual property, product or business, though, there’s pretty much no avoiding the usefulness of the social nets.
You can also bet your last cubit that you will be extensively Googled by any savvy potential employer. Your social media profiles will be scrutinized. They way you present yourself on social profiles can present a quick overview of your personality, skills and ambitions. However, you can totally blow that first impression – and in so doing lose a potential interview, client, customer or follower – by falling victim to one of these social mistakes.
Note: We’ll be focusing on Twitter, as it’s the most prominent network with a high percentage of public profiles. But a lot of these notes can apply across platforms.
Also note: if you’re not job hunting, business creating or attached to a career field where anybody gives a damn about your online persona, feel free to do any of the below. Though you might still look like a wanker.
Your Avatar/Profile Pic Should Start the Conversation – Not End It
Apply healthy consideration to what image represents you in the public space. For many followers, that icon becomes the mental image they associate to your voice and persona. For an employer, that avatar is quickly indicative of whether you’re brainy enough to not look like an idiot on the interwebz.
If it’s helpful for people to identify you personally, use a clear photo that more or less accurately represents you. By all means use the image you think makes you look most attractive. Just avoid anything that makes you look like some kind of miscreant or imbecile. That funny drunk pic from the party of you in your whitey-tighties? Pass. Close up of your bloody nose after a casual face-thumping? You’re not Andrew W.K. These maybe be isolated, colorful moments, but as your first social impression and no evidence to the contrary, they may make it look like your average Wednesday. Which is not attractive to an employer.
Artists, display some of your work. Focus on that visual appeal. This may be the only exposure someone has to your work. Wouldn’t you rather it not be some tossed-off scribble? Use characters that you actually work on, own or are otherwise associated with. If you draw a manga-flavored pony-shipper webcomic but your icon is Deadpool, you’re sending some seriously mixed messages.
In general, just make sure the photo is close-up and sharp. Someone viewing it at thumbnail size should be able to easily identify what they’re looking at. If it’s a logo or icon, be careful to avoid awkward crops.
Tell Us Who You Are and What You Do
Twitter allows a very finite character limit to introduce yourself. USE THIS WISELY. You have an opportunity to be funny and creative, but don’t play coy. Use this space to tell a potential client, customer or employer something relevant and useful. Ever stumbled across someone’s profile that told you nothing at all about them? Did it make you curious to delve into their feed and find out more? Probably not. You likely lost interest immediately, unless their profile pic was super compelling. (Read as: boobs, a photo of Tom Hiddleston, or photo of Tom Hiddleston with boobs.)
Be specific. Generalized statements such as “I write stuff” are almost equally useless. What stuff? Furry fan-fiction? Epic poetry about cephalopods? GIVE US SOME CONTEXT!
Bad: Lover of tacos. Long walks on the beach. Reggae. Once got punched in the face by Ke$ha.
Great. You’ve told me a bunch of generic stuff, and I’m glad that awful pop singer popped you one.
Better: Writer/Editor for @SomeWebsite. Loves tacos, long walks on short beaches, reggae. Once got punched in the face by Ke$ha.
Now I have some context for what you do and who you do it for. And suddenly I might want to hear that Ke$ha story. Maybe.
Respect the Format (and Everyone Else Stuck with It)
Don’t write something crass like “my life can’t be summed up in 160 characters” or “I refuse to relegate my life story to a paragraph”. Wow, look at you telling it to The Man. You’re not a part of their system. Except you totally are, because you have a profile there.
None of our lives are done justice by a pithy blurb. But here you’ve wasted your first impression on being flippant and pointlessly rebellious – and succeeded in losing my interest completely with a single sentence.
You are NOT a Unicorn
Don’t position yourself as a unique snowflake because you are a (specific gender/ethnicity/religion/affiliation) that (enjoys/participates in/writes about) a (topic/industry/pastime). While these are undeniably important aspects of who you are, a checklist of categorizations doesn’t render you all that special. If the internet has taught us anything, it’s that even the most niche of interests has a community. Many other folks may fit your look-I’m-so-special description. Such a phrase can make you seem terribly self-impressed with no validation.
Bad: I’m a chick who reads comics! ‘Nuff said?
There’s a huge group of very vocal female comic readers out there. It’s great that you’re one of them. But it better not be your entire selling point.
We Understand that these are YOUR Tweets
Lots of user profiles list the companies they work for or contribute to, then cap their description with the general disclaimer “Tweets/thoughts/comments are my own.” Unless required in your employer’s contract, don’t waste precious character count with this statement.
It is generally understood that a personal profile reflects that individual’s viewpoints and experiences. If they ARE tweeting/posting on behalf of a company, entity or other person, we expect that to be made blatant in their description.
I realize this is just ass-coverage to defend against someone tweeting something stupid and it reflecting on their employer. It made sense in the early days of social media. Now it’s just redundant.
These Days, EVERYONE is Clever
Say you landed on some pointed play on words, an ironic turn of phrase, or twisted a popular reference. You’re feeling pretty darn clever. Surely your smart snark will be lauded as a true font of hilarity. But beware: the web gave everyone a megaphone and the opportunity to play comedian or critic. Before you represent yourself with that bit of comic gold, google it. Try it out on friends. Test drive it with your comic shop clerk. If it’s already in use everywhere, or falls flat with your IRL peeps, chancres are it will do you zero favors with the Tweeps.
Where in the World Are You?
Your profile has a setting called “Location”. You may feel compelled to fill this space with something generic, like “The Internet” or “Earth”. You could get geeky and say “Hogwarts” or “The 616 Universe” or “a van down by the river”. And that’s all well and entertaining, but it’s neither useful nor professional.
If an employer is looking at you for a potential job, your location is relevant to them. If you offer services, a potential client might be curious to know where you’re based out of – which can have a big impact on their decision whether or not to hire you. Some clients prefer to support local businesses. Some companies like to hire resources operating out of a different market. If your listed location is some nonsense, they may immediately question your business’ validity. How much would YOU trust a vendor who didn’t exist somewhere specific?
You don’t need to supply your exact city, neighborhood and GPS location. The closest major city or media market is fine. It may be beneficial to use those bigger locales – easier for your visitor to place on their mental map.
The Adventure of Links
Don’t neglect the website link! Give your profile visitor a direct portal to discover more about you, your portfolio, additional article links, videos, etc. They may never read all your fascinating tweets, so make sure they can easily bask in the glory that is your official web presence.
Simple best practices for your website link:
- Keep your URL short and meaningful. Use “myawesomewebsite.com”, not “http://superninjatornado.com/user/StudMuffin/posts.aspx?id=124233”.
- Avoid amateur URLs like “myawesomefoodblog.wordpress.com” or “tacotuesdaysrule.blogspot.com”. Domain names are cheap and easily redirected to your freebie hosting site of choice.
- Artists and designers, link to a custom portfolio website or a showcase profile on a respected community, like Behance or Cargo. DO NOT link to your Pinterest page or DeviantArt account. They offer too many distractions to pull the viewer away from your stuff. (And some of those distractions may not be things you’d like associated to you.)
- Avoid linking to Tumblr. That site is like the mad scribblings on the wall of a fictional serial murderer. Your attempt to look pro or hirable will get lost in the broader canvas of crazy talk and twerking cat gifs.
- Make sure the link WORKS! If your visitor clicks that web link and gets a 404 or similar error, you’re gonna look like a big ol’ dummy – and they’re going to take you a LOT less seriously.
These are all guidelines, of course. Be a rule breaker, but do it with taste and consideration. A casual error in your profile could put the kibosh on a social conversation before it starts.