Your Social Media Footprint: 4 Tips for Being Conscientious

by John Montesi

Most everyone has left a social media footprint in one form or another—what does yours say about you? If you’re heading to college or starting a career, it’s time to answer this question.

In the early days of social media, what you put on the internet didn’t matter as much. But now, more than a decade later, many social media-savvy people are members of the workforce and know how to “investigate” your social media accounts to get a better idea of who you are.

In some ways, this is a realization of the original goal of social media sites: to connect people with one another while allowing you to create a “profile” of yourself that showcases your life. On the other hand, it’s also a liability that creates one more way you could potentially get in trouble for something you said or did many years ago.

Here are some practical tips on how to be conscientious of your social media footprint as you apply to college or begin your career.

1. “Creep” on Yourself

When was the last time you scrolled to the very bottom of your Instagram profile or clicked the “About” tab on Facebook? Sure, you might not care about that stuff very much anymore—but admissions officers (and HR personnel) that are social media-savvy and looking to understand your hobbies might be surprised to find that lyric you quoted or that video you’re tagged in from spring break. If you can find it online, so can everyone else.

2. Consider the Hard Questions

One of the best filters for culling your social media footprint is asking yourself, “Would I want to get asked about this during an interview?” Whether it’s a tweet from 10 years ago, a politically charged photo, or a Facebook status about how much you despise corporate America, things that seemed funny or worth sharing at a different time (and in a different context) might be hard to explain in an interview.

3. Treat Social Media as a Résumé

It’s not all bad news! Every day there’s an increase in the number of job roles that use social media in a professional setting, and those companies are looking for individuals who are experienced when it comes to social media—and not just for dedicated social media positions.

Many companies let younger employees run its social media accounts even if their job title is not related to marketing. Likewise, even more brands are using social media as a genuine way to connect with applicants and employees, helping to establish a sense of community and identify shared interests. This means that using social media to share and discuss things you’re passionate about can actually be a great way to connect with your future boss or gain a leg up on the competition by proving your track record in a given field.

4. Delete and Tweet

In today’s world, social media is an important part of your résumé. Therefore, it’s important to have some profiles that you can use to comfortably blur the line between your personal and professional lives. Instead of deleting accounts, consider trimming some of the old and irrelevant content and posting more things that are pertinent to your current interests and career pursuits.

Andrew Henck, director of Azusa Pacific University’s Center for Career and Calling, understands the value of a personal brand. “In today’s changing world of work, our social footprints continue to evolve online with each tweet, Facebook like, Instagram comment, update to our LinkedIn profile, and other digital interactions that we make,” he emphasizes. “At APU, students are able to meet with our team of career consultants and network with alumni from different industries—while learning the value of clear and effective personal branding—in order to be successful in their career pursuits.”