Most of us, at one time or another, have been warned about the reach of our social media profiles and how easily an employer can (and will) look them over before offering a job. It’s been drilled into our heads that we need to keep everything personal locked down online in order to be professional. While there is certainly some truth to that, having an online presence can also really benefit you professionally, as long as you do it right.
For more than a decade, if someone were to Google my name and come across one of my social media profiles, they’d end up looking at a carefully-chosen picture of me on a page with the highest privacy settings possible. On the outside, there wasn’t much to see, but on my side, I was adding photos, leaving comments and frequently engaging online. This worked for a long time, but eventually, I decided to transition my career into an industry where it was good to have an easily accessible social media and online presence. So, I had a lot of work ahead of me.
It didn’t happen overnight, but over time I was able to curate the social media profiles I cared about (and ditch the other ones), create a professional website that represents my experience and my personality and develop a strong personal brand. All of that work was worth it, because now if an employer were to Google me, they’d find my LinkedIn profile, portfolio and my public social media profile. In fact, I want them to Google me now.
Understandably, the idea of building out an online presence might be intimidating if you’re not super techy. Good news, though, you don’t have to be a graphic designer or computer wizard to do it. As long as you can confidently use your computer and feel comfortable learning as you go, you can build out a professional online presence. Here are the steps I took, and my advice for each one.
Clean up social media
First and foremost, set any social media profile you have to the highest possible privacy setting. This will ensure that no one is able to find anything that you haven’t had a chance to review yet. Once that’s done, deactivate any accounts that you don’t use on a regular basis and that you don’t want to use moving forward.
Next, if you think it would be beneficial to set any of your remaining profiles to public, it’s time to start curating. Scrub each profile of any photos or posts you wouldn’t want an employer to see. When I was doing this step, I’d ask myself, “would I want my kids to see this,” and if the answer was no, I deleted it. How long this process takes depends a lot on the number of profiles you want to keep. That being said, you don’t have to do everything at once.
💡Prioritize the profile you care about most so that it’s cleaned up and ready to go public first.
You don’t have to be an aspiring influencer to benefit professionally from social media. My platform of choice is Instagram and by setting my profile to public and using hashtags, I’m able to reach a wider audience and increase my chances of being seen by someone in my industry. It also allows potential clients or employers to get a sense of my lifestyle and determine if my personality would align well with their brand
Update LinkedIn and other job search profiles and start getting active
When I say this, I don’t mean just adding a few bullet points or updating your job title. I mean completely revamp the page if you need to. Your profile(s) should have an updated photo of you that looks professional (so no selfies) and there’s an option to add a banner photo, like on LinkedIn, put something in there. Also, upload a public-friendly version of your resume to the page and include any relevant links to work. Finally, make sure the job title you write in the headline accurately reflects what you do.
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Once everything looks polished, start interacting with people through the platform. Connect with people in your industry, and outside of your industry and join groups to talk to other like-minded professionals. Post relevant articles or write your own and engage with other people’s posts by commenting on or reacting to them. Basically, dust off your profile and create some traffic with it so that it pops up in searches.
Create a professional website
This might be the most intimidating step, but I promise it’s worth the upfront work! My website has proven over and over to be the most beneficial piece to my online presence, so much so that I link to it anywhere I can find. It’s nothing flashy, either, it’s just two pages: the main page and an “About Me” page. The main page has examples of my work as well as quick links to the About Me page, my LinkedIn and Instagram profiles, a PDF of my public resume and to send me an email. It’s simple but effective.
To build your own website, you don’t need to know how to code or have advanced web development knowledge, you just need to find a platform that will host your page, has a template that matches your style and that you are able to easily navigate. From there, you can personalize it by changing out colors, reorganizing things a bit and including your photo.
Make everything cohesive
You’ve put so much work into these profiles, now you just need to bring them all together. For this, use your website as your base and refine your other profiles to complement it so that you have a single brand across all of your personal pages.
I did this by working off my website’s color scheme to create a custom banner that has my name and my specialties written across it. I then added the banner to the top of my webpage and to my LinkedIn profile so that the branding is consistent. I also have a link to my website in my Instagram profile and a link to my Instagram profile on my website. My two goals are for anyone to be able to access at least one of my profiles from wherever they initially find me online and for all of my profiles/pages to come together functionally and stylistically.
Reap the rewards
I cannot overstate the benefits of building out an online presence. In the two years since I began curating mine, the number of cold reach-outs I get from recruiters, collaborators and potential clients has increased significantly, my network has expanded and my portfolio of work has steadily grown. It took a lot of work to get here, but it was definitely worth it.
Now that you know what steps to take and why creating an online presence it’s so beneficial, get started on your own! Here are a few final tips and resources to help you.
Keep your email address professional with some variation of your name
Create a resume for public use that does not include your phone number or other personal information
It’s worth the fee to create a custom address for your website
Include links to your website and profiles in your personal and professional email signatures
Profiles that aren’t tailored to you professionally must be set to private
Canva and Pixlr offer free digital design and photo editing options
Paletton will create a palette from of a single color you choose
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