…If you are ok with him/her living in your basement until about age 40.
The numbers are increasing every year. More and more college admissions officers and job recruiters are checking out applicants’ social media profiles. Over 50% of college admissions officers and over 90% of job recruiters. Why wouldn’t they? Many universities- and companies- have plenty of qualified applicants but limited space for them. And, frankly, if you want to really find out who someone is, their social media profile will tell everything you need to know. Often, it will tell you more than you ever wanted to know.
So, what are they looking for?
- Inappropriate content
- Content that differentiates them from the crowd
Schools and companies weed through candidates who have obvious radioactive, illegal or aggressive content on their public social media profile- we know this type of content will discredit an applicant immediately. But, what about the content that differentiates? How does that work?
Public Social Media Presence
It’s essential for teens to have a social media presence for the purpose of being found and evaluated by potential schools and/or employers or both. This is also where it becomes important for parents to guide and promote a positive reputation. I realize that many parents don’t view themselves as ‘social media savvy’ or ‘tech savvy’. Parents, this is a wake up call. No more hiding behind that as an excuse. Your kids’ futures depend on your involvement here. There are great resources out there that help anyone get up to speed (www.cyberwise.org or www.fosi.org are two of them). Kids use social media to connect, communicate and live their virtual social lives. Just because they are technically far more proficient than most of us (myself included!) doesn’t mean they have the emotional maturity to handle the adult decisions required online.
We have to guide them to use their public accounts, whether Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, to build a positive reputation for themselves.
In other words- their brand- their “digital tattoo.” This seems like a “grown up” concern, something I never had to think about when I was 16 in 1986. Social media has changed this- it has made us all public figures. It has forced us, as parents, to coach our kids about how to make mature decisions about what they post, share, or retweet as well as who they follow, and who follows them.
How do we do this? Where do we start?
- Be a role model. They watch what you post, who you follow, the content you share. Be the example you expect them to follow, and remind them that the internet has a long memory. Think of posting in public social media as using a Sharpie on a whiteboard. It’s permanent. One aggressive or radioactive post, re-tweet or share can cost thousands in scholarship funding, and even a job.
- Have the conversation about posting constructively. In other words, some mindless banter and tweets are ok, but encourage them to talk most about what inspires them, hobbies, teams, schools or causes they support, volunteer work, and aspirations.
- Check out a site called http://socialassurity.com. There is a wealth of knowledge on this site and in their blog about students using public social media to differentiate themselves. They also provide eCourses and consulting services for teens and job seekers to help build a social media profile that will stand out and communicate the brand you want to represent.
- Help them establish “The Right Mix”.
The Right Mix- What’s That?
This is a healthy mix between public and private social media. Public social media being defined as that where any user can find you, follow you, and learn about you (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). For reasons described above, there is no doubt about the importance of using public social media to stand out. But there is so much “other” interesting and valuable content to be shared with smaller, selective audiences that doesn’t need to go into our “friends sphere.” Think of the oodles of game, dance, or club photos. The sleepovers. The practices. The selfies, duck faces and peace sign poses. Conversations and/or events that are better kept private, to be shared with select groups of people…family, team, club, real physical friends (not the 468 “friends” or “followers” you have).
Public social media has been around now for over 10 years. More and more content appears every day. It’s time to begin making intentional choices about what photos, documents, conversations and events are appropriate to share on public social media vs that which is best shared and maintained in smaller, select groups that are private. Groups where members aren’t able to click on random other members to stalk them and put the pieces of their lives together. But rather, groups where the members see only what is specifically shared within that group. We’ve become very casual about our privacy. It’s time to be selective about what we share and with whom we share it. Once shared online in a public profile, there is no ‘taking it down’ or ‘unsharing’. Public = permanent.
Using the right mix of public (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc) and private (Frienedy) social media results in a cleaner, smarter personal brand and a digital reputation much easier to manage.