Facebook, like many other websites, saw its beginnings in a dorm room. When a Harvard student decided to take photos from different houses’ “facebook” pages and establish a rating system he got into some big trouble. But what was born is the biggest social networking site in the world.
Following on the heels of older social networking sites like Friendster and Myspace, Facebook has become more than just a social networking site. Many people use it to promote their businesses or their personal interests (think charities, clubs, etc), and many people are using it in this tough economy to promote their own personal brand.
What is a personal brand? Think of it in terms of what you would want a potential employer to see. If you are marketing yourself, you only want to show the best side of yourself to the internet world. In fact, many hiring managers and HR professionals use Facebook to check out applicants. Additionally, some colleges check sites like Facebook and Myspace to research students who apply.
That being said, there are some obvious rules to follow if you are using Facebook as a means to brand yourself. Even if you’re not actively using it for that reason, the things you put on Facebook can work against you if you put questionable photos, or comments on your profile or on the profile of your friends.
We’ll go into how to make Facebook work for you in your personal branding efforts, but for now let’s talk about what you shouldn’t be putting out there.
Your photos are a big part of your Facebook page. It’s best to avoid putting questionable or suggestive photos of yourself on your Facebook page. Use your best judgment, but it’s best to avoid partial nudity. Facebook generally blocks real nudity, but what Facebook deems appropriate and what you should consider appropriate for your page should be different. Unless you are an up-and-coming swimsuit model, multiple pictures of yourself in swimwear is probably not appropriate. That’s not to say that the occasional vacation pic is a no-no, but you should generally have more photos in plain clothes than in bikinis or Speedos. Also, photos of yourself in compromising situations should be avoided. It might only be tobacco in that hookah, but the average person browsing Facebook doesn’t know that. Same for pictures of yourself drunk and disorderly, or doing anything illegal. A good rule of thumb to use is even if you don’t care what a potential employer thinks, think about what your mother would say.
We’ll go into it more soon, but your profile should be complete and reflect your true interests and goals. If you care about your personal branding image, you won’t use Facebook as a dating site (there are plenty of websites out there for that) and you’ll use a bit of decorum when filling out your profile.
Status Updates and Wall Posts
What you say reflects who you are, whether you like it or not. Excessive use of profanity or vulgarity makes you look, well, profane and vulgar. Remember that the internet is a very big place, and what you say can have a lot of impact on how people perceive you. Be smart, and make these types of sites work for you. And be sure to keep watch on what people say about you. You don’t want a situation that Expedia was confronted with (see image below.)