Social media is kind of like people and driving: Many are on the road, but not everyone should be allowed behind the wheel.

With so many ways to share online, some professionals still don’t see the connection between what they post and how it shapes their digital brand.

A digital brand is exactly what it sounds like: your personal brand online.

Let me tell you this: If haven’t given much thought to your online reputation, you really should. In fact, your digital brand is actually more important than a resume (which every professional thinks about at some point) because it’s often the first way someone will find out about you. According to a Jobvite survey, “94% of recruiters use, or plan to use social media for recruiting.”

This means a couple of things: It’s important to have an online presence that speaks to your personal brand in a positive way. And if you don’t have an online presence, you need to get one ASAP.

So getting back to social media. There are many benefits to platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and, of course, LinkedIn (my favorite of them all). The problem is that people seem to forget that their actions are being digitally recorded.

Unlike Vegas, what happens on social media doesn’t always just stay on social media. Your best bet (no pun intended) is to avoid these social media mistakes.

1. You have no idea what shows up in your Google search results.

It’s important to continuously monitor your brand online. Google yourself to see what comes up in the search results. You can also automate the process by creating Google Alerts for your name so that you’re notified anytime something new pops up about you online.

The first page of your Google search results is the most important. Factors like having an active LinkedIn profile will show up high in your search results, which is great if you have an impressive profile. It also helps to have your own personal domain and comment on professional blogs.

If you want to strategically improve your online reputation, you can work with a professional to help position your social brand based on your career objectives. (This is one of the things I enjoy doing most with clients, especially using LinkedIn as a major platform).

2. You share your whole life on Facebook (even a stalker would get bored due to the lack of a chase).

It’s okay to keep some things to yourself…really. If you’re guilty of oversharing on Facebook, ask yourself why you feel the need to do it (boredom? entertainment? loneliness?). These things may not have any impact if there’s nothing at stake, but as you get older, it’s more important to really think about your actions online.

If you have to second guess what you’re sharing, chances are you should keep it to yourself. Every picture, update, comment, or tweet is a reflection of your brand and shapes how someone else sees you.

3. You constantly post about hating your job and manager.

Surprise, the cat is out the see-through bag. Everyone knows that you hate your job and that is not a good thing. Social media is not the place to talk about work drama or your incompetent boss. You don’t know who is reading your post and who will go back and relay that information to people who don’t need to know this.

Even more importantly, you don’t want this information to be found by a potential employer. There are people at agencies  who basically snoop around on your social media to find out these very things as part of their job.

Vent to your friends, drink lots of wine (purely optional), but whatever you do, keep the negative thoughts off of social media and quietly look for a new job.

4. You have an unprofessional LinkedIn profile picture.

Your LinkedIn profile is the first greeting you give anyone that comes across your page. It’s important that your digital  “hello” is professional and reflects your personal brand. A picture of you in a car or in the bathroom is simply distracting and unprofessional—even if you were having a “good day”.

I highly recommend investing in a professional photo, but it is not required. You can also get a friend to take a picture of you dressed up or find a nice picture from a recent event.

When choosing a photo, make sure that the lighting is good and 80% of your face is shown (no random people and the family pet should be visible). Trust me, it’ll make an immediate difference to your profile.

5. You have a Twitter profile that resembles one of a teenager.

There’s more to Twitter than celebrities and sports figures to “follow”. If you don’t have a private profile, you should show diversity with the people that you follow.

Twitter can be a very casual platform, especially with the 140 character limit. But it can also be a great way to follow recruiters and your favorite company for the latest news or job opportunities. Some good professional profiles to follow areLinkedIn, Reach Personal Branding, and Careerealism to name a few.

If you’re looking for a new job, check out “9 Must-Follow Twitter Hashtags for Job Seekers,” by Lindsay Olson in U.S. News Money. Just by these additions, you will be seen as a savvy professional that is interested in more than just pop culture.

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Marietta Gentles Crawford
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Marietta Gentles Crawford

Writer + Personal Brand Strategist, Founder at MGC Ink
Marietta Gentles Crawford is a writer, personal brand strategist, and author of "From Nine to Thrive: A Guide to Building Your Personal Brand and Elevating Your Career." With over ten years' experience climbing through top corporate and government brands as a writer and trainer, her passion is inspiring professionals to dare mediocrity.
Marietta Gentles Crawford
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