In considering how you manage your personal and professional information online, a good first step is to make a list of all the platforms you currently use, and why you use them. This might include Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Pinterest and possibly many more. What is your purpose in using each of these? Are you sharing social activities and personal thoughts with family and friends who already know you? Are you sharing images onto an open platform that you’re happy to share with the world? Are you blogging about your learning, or maybe your cat, in an open space where you invite others to connect with you? Are you creating a professional profile with a view to gaining employment? In each of these spaces you create a persona and reveal more or less of yourself, as you choose. In some instances, you may have created a profile without much thought, whereas in others, you may have considered very carefully what it is you want to portray.
As we discussed in Thing 2, every one of these interactions leaves behind a footprint. Labrecque, Markos, and Milne (2011) explored the processes people use to brand themselves in a digital space and the challenges faced in creating a personal brand, finding that their study participants intentionally fashioned their online profiles to maintain their brand identity, with some deliberately managing different profiles for different audiences. The participants received feedback on their digital profile from a panel of reviewers which caused several of them to make changes such as removing tags from images, deleting old photographs or posts, updating relationship status and in some cases, deleting selected accounts altogether as they considered the viewpoints of friends or family, colleagues, and possible future employers.
“Seeing yourself from somebody else’s eyes, it’s allowing you to see what other people think of you, especially people that have no idea about the person that you are.” Gina, (female study participant, 22)
There are benefits in taking the time to manage your personal online information and developing your own brand:
- It’s easier for people with common interests to find you
- It’s an opportunity to promote your areas of expertise
- You can show others you’re interested in collaborating
- You can expand your personal or professional circles beyond your immediate environment or locality
- You can raise your profile for potential employment opportunities.
There are several platforms you might use to create your professional brand; we’re including some tips for just two of those, but ask in the comments if you have questions about others.
LinkedIn provides opportunity to create a detailed profile, list your achievements, follow others, post articles and join discussion groups. The groups feature allows people with common interests to share knowledge and information, and build networks: The National RTO Network group, for example, currently has over 13,500 members, providing opportunities for many rich discussions on topics relevant to Vocational Education and Training in Australia.
Twitter provides for a brief profile, with its limited characters encouraging the use of key words. Through using hashtags and following others it is possible to engage in global discussions, as well as share resources and connect with new people. As an open, public platform, Twitter is frequently used by conference organisers and participants to create a backchannel, allowing those not at the conference to participate in the conversations. We’ll cover more on Twitter in Thing 5 next week.
With all platforms, it’s important to consider carefully what you post: think twice, post once is a good maxim to follow. Once your post is there for the world to see, particularly on public platforms, it may be too late to delete it as others may already have screenshots of what you posted. Stoller (2019) blogs about the unexpected confrontation arising from what was intended as a light-hearted tweet from a satirical social media account. The ensuing conversations on Twitter demonstrate the pitfalls of a careless post and the ease with which people can take offense, reflecting poorly on your personal and professional image.
In summary, consider carefully the image you want to portray, and take the necessary steps to either modify that image if you’re already active online, or to create that image if you’re just starting out. There are a few activities under “Try” to get you started.