Social media: fun for personal use, but important for professional use too

By even writing this blog post, I am participating in one kind of social media in a semi-professional way (given that it is for the Career Center), but that serves as an introduction to the topic at hand.  About a month ago, I was published for the second time here at work, as one of the authors of a report entitled Local Government Use of Social Media to Prepare for Emergencies.  As the title implies, the report looks into the innovations of several local governments in making use of social media as part of their comprehensive emergency management plans.  Examples of this include things like using Twitter for updates about inclement weather and power outages; using Facebook pages to update the community on the progress of snowplows; and then having short blog posts reminding citizens to have enough water and food on hand during an emergency situation.  As a side note, but one worth mentioning, this entire process of using social media has some serious ethical implications of equal provision of emergency management services for citizens of lesser economic means; bearing this in mind, the report is written very clearly as a suggestion to include social media as a valuable addition to the emergency management services of a municipality, meaning those other services (such as having a toll-free hotline for contact) need to be continued as well.


This is a very professional (as opposed to personal) use of social media, by local government, but it also serves as some good indications of why it is worth getting involved in social media in a presentable way, for the purposes of networking and improving one’s chances of making the right impression to get a job.  As such, I have a short list, based on in-house discussions, of how social media figures into a job interview or working at an internship.


1) Even if you end up getting employed at a place where the whole office goes to Happy Hour at least once per week, they don’t want to see profile picture or status updates pertaining to binge drinking.  Regardless of the hypocritical nature of such a thing (drinking a lot with coworkers being acceptable, but not with friends), this is a fairly widely-held opinion, based on other places I have worked.

2) Along the lines of the first bit of advice, consider carefully just who you end up adding in which social network.  Perhaps consider keeping your Facebook for your personal use only, and then using LinkedIn exclusively for professional purposes (this is the route I have generally taken, and have been pleased with it).

3) Along a very different line of thinking, consider the implications of using Flickr.  The site has a clear series of options to make the photos posted be copyrighted as Creative Commons, which will enable others to use those photos.  The images used in the Social Media/Emergency Management report I mentioned above, with the exception of one from ICMA photographers, were all taken from Creative Commons work, and add a solid sense of the worth of using social media.  Maybe suggest the benefits of Creative Commons photographs to your boss next time there is a publication being worked on?  Regardless, having a photo album tagged to your name on Flickr or similar sites can be found by a office which is interviewing you; bear that in mind when posting photos.

4) In many of the internships you apply for, it may be well worth your while to mention experience with social media, as organizations have finally caught on to its worth, so making clear your vast experience with the medium cannot hurt your application and interview!


What do you think about the use of social media for private purposes, versus public ones?