SM for College Students Part 2: Tips on Proper and Effective Use of Social Media for College Students

In Part 1 of this continuing Social Media saga, I (hopefully) persuaded you to jump in there with both feet.  Interestingly enough, I had a member of one of the campus fraternities come to my office yesterday to ask if I would give a presentation to the frat about how to use SM.  I mentioned to him how 90% of businesses today use SM to check on prospective candidates during the hiring process, and how important it is to be careful how you use it.  He dropped his head and mentioned that he would probably need to delete all of his accounts.  It should be an interesting presentation next month.

So my first tip for proper and effective use of SM is….

Recreate you SM Presence

The only way you can prevent people (and prospective bosses) from seeing your bad side is to not make those posts.  What happens if you read this too late?  Well…. You have one of two choices.  You can delete everything and start over as the frat member considered, or you can do a major turnaround starting right this very minute on the accounts you already have.  Honestly, I would recommend the latter.

If you keep your current accounts, make some modifications to your profile and go back into the history to delete anything questionable.  If you do happen to find something that is inappropriate, be upfront, honest and transparent about it.  If I were interviewing someone, and they were genuinely and authentically honest with me, owning up to faults and explaining how they have corrected the errors of their way, I would have more respect for that person than if they tried to hide it.  The fact of the matter is, if I were to hire someone fresh out of college and their accounts were only six months to a year old, I would suspect they are hiding something.

When creating or recreating your SM presence, follow these simple steps…

  • The first thing prospective employers will see is your profile, so make it look professional.  Select an appropriate user name, and profile and header pictures.  Use the description to introduce and highlight your most important skills and accomplishments.
  • Next is content.  The following content should never be included in your posts…
    • Inappropriate pictures. For example, pics of you at a party drinking, doing drugs, and any involvement in illegal or unethical activities.
    • Inappropriate language such as cursing, outbursts of anger, demeaning and insensitive comments toward another and prejudice remarks.
    • Incorrect use of grammar, punctuation and spelling. You want to show you are a good writer and speaker.
    • Discussions about drugs, drinking, politics, religion and other hot topics that are trending.
  • Watching the content you create is vitally important, but so is the content you curate, or share/like/retweet.  If it is not going to match your SM voice or contrary to what your own original posts are, then don’t share it.
  • Ask your friends not to post inappropriate posts and pictures of you, and be sure they don’t tag you.  Their comments will show up in a search as well.

Set Goals for SM Use and Voice

You’re ready to go, but in what direction do you go?  You need to set goals for yourself…. What kind of voice do you want to have on SM?  How do you want people to perceive you as a person and professional?  I always compare it to running.  What kind of race would it be if there were no finish line?  You would keep running and running and running and…. get the picture??  You have to know where you want to end up before you can begin the journey, or you will be lost.  Your goals are your guide to success.  Without them, you’re doomed to fail.

Now that you have that starting point and you know the end result you want, what is the next step?  I just eluded to it in tip #1….

Set Personal Standards and Strategies

I like to run half marathons.  I have run around 15 in the past 4 years.  They’re fun and challenging.  The first time I ran one, though, was not pretty.  I started out with a fast pace thinking I would get ahead of the pack and stay there.  Little did I know that I would burn up all my energy and end up walking the last three miles of the race.  Ever since that first major fail, I set some standards for running 13.1 miles so I wouldn’t hit the wall so early.  I did some research, decided on a better pace strategy, used it during my practice runs, and ever since then, I have performed much better in a half marathon.  I may still take walk breaks along the way, but they are short and quick then I’m off again.  And there have been times I have run the entire distance with no breaks at all.  Regardless, my time has improved drastically because I set pace standards and developed a strategy.

I’m sure you have heard the old saying “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  That statement may have come from a rabbit named Thumper, but it couldn’t be more spot-on. This is my top priority standard for every SM platform I use.  I make every attempt to write only positive, supportive and uplifting posts, and that goes for what I share, retweet and like as well.  Believe me, there are lots of times I want to share my anger and frustration about someone or something, but I bite my tongue and hold it back.  I have found going for a run is much more productive than sharing negativity on Facebook or Twitter.

Network, Network, Network!!

Did I say network?  I did, didn’t I?? Finally, the fourth and final tip is regarding who you should be following and networking.  If you choose just the right people and add them to your current friend/following list, then it will enhance your presence in multiple ways. The key is finding people who are professional and knowledgeable about your discipline.  If you’re a marketing major, follow everyone who is a reputable, professional marketing expert.  It can be individuals, businesses and online organizations.  A couple of my favorite online news sources to follow is Mashable and Social Media Today.  One of my favorite national brands is Jeep, and a cool local brand I recently found doing a good job on Facebook is Elkins Auto in Elkins, WV.  They are both very creative in their marketing on SM, and I watch an international corporation as well as a local firm doing well.

Once you start following them, join in and even create dialogue with the individuals, brands and organizations.  Get involved and engaged.  You will learn from them, increase you network, and improve your presence on SM.  That is what you want prospective employers to see.  Who knows, one of those businesses you happen to be following may just end up being your place of employment someday.

When posed with the question of how college students could effectively use SM for their professional life, one of my LinkedIn contacts, a well-known SM expert and the author of the textbook we use in the Social Media Marketing class shared these thoughts with me…..

“Today’s business professionals are expected to use social media in ways that build their personal brand and strategically enhance their networks. Students who have the opportunity to take a class and discover the myriad of ways social technology can boost their professionalism will greatly benefit when they begin their search for internships and jobs. Developing business acumen in social media is a skill set. In fact, those who know how to authentically and creatively leverage social media will often find themselves at an advantage as HR, hiring managers and others often use social media as a first review prior to inviting candidates in for an interview.

Carolyn Mae Kim, PhD (2016)

An article in the Journal of Technology Research stated that, “Since social media provides an easy way to receive feedback and communicate with peers, young adults’ attitudes of themselves can be affected by using social media networks” (Sponcil & Gitimu, n.d.).  So if you’re following the professional people and contributing to the professional conversations with the professional content, they it could help you become more…. Ummm….. PROFESSIONAL!

It was fun to play on SM while you were in high school, but unfortunately those days are gone.  Now you’re doing this adulting thing whether you like it or not.  So grab Social Media by the horns and steer it in the right direction NOW.  Whether you’re on campus for the first semester in your life, or you are a 5th-Year MBA student, get your SM presence on the right track and heading toward that dream job you have always wanted and for which you have worked so hard.  Don’t tweet your career away!!

What have you done to improve your SM presence?  I invite you to share some of your ideas to add to the discussion.

Until later,

Professor Conrad


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