The 7 Rules Every Student Should Know for Building an Online Footprint
Developing an online footprint is an escapable part of living in the 21st Century. If you hope to function in society, you’ve got to have a presence. Unfortunately, most people are doing it wrong, and the foul-up begins while they are still in school.
In the following article, we’ll be discussing some of the rules that you need to follow if you hope to have an online reputation that is worth anything. And remember: the connected world is a consequential thing, but it’s not your first priority.
That’s the real world. Your day-to-day comings and goings. Your online presence should support that existence, not replace it. Now let’s get started!
1. LinkedIn Is a Necessity
Not every social network out there is worth your time. But the one that is absolutely necessary is LinkedIn. The reason for this: it’s a snapshot of who you are as a professional or what you hope to become.
When you’re on LinkedIn, you have the ability to showcase your accomplishments, connect with others in your profession, and even find that next job.
You always should be mindful of what your profile is putting out into the world, and you should treat it as the site of importance that it is; not just an afterthought. If you’re wondering how to make the most out of LinkedIn, here are some tips:
- Treat the education and work experience sections as you would your resume. Account for any gaps. Be descriptive of the duties you had at your job(s) or the things you studied while you were in school.
- Seek and give endorsements when they are warranted. Don’t try to fudge this to build your numbers. Reach out to people who can give you authentic recommendations, and reciprocate if you share that respect for them.
- If publishing posts, make sure they’re well-written and professional. Keep the politics to a minimum or try to eliminate it altogether. The same goes for salty language.
- When reaching out to connect with others, always include an honest, straight-forward note about how you discovered them and why you’d like to connect. People on LinkedIn hate to have their time wasted, and they aren’t too fond of spammers either. Don’t behave like one.
- Take part in discussions. Seek out conversations of interest that apply to your field of major or current/future position. Jump in with questions and answers if you have them. Show curiosity, authenticity, and a sincere desire to advance the conversation.
2. Facebook Can Be Effective If Used Correctly
Facebook has (rightfully) taken it on the chin as of late for their negligence with user data. That’s all well-documented and ongoing. While the social networking giant is taking steps to correct its nefarious past, it still has a long way to go.
It hasn’t been that kind to publishers and marketers either. After luring them in with advertising reach, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg pulled the rug out from under them when he announced that sponsored posts would be taking a less prominent role in the news feed moving forward.
While you probably hate that if you were one of the individuals who benefitted from the exposure, that’s made Facebook a more hospitable place for people to let their hair down and reconnect with their real friends and acquaintances.
Unfortunately, that freedom comes with a dark side. The dark side takes the form of public disagreements, annoying memes/fake news sharing, and fuel to the narcissistic urge of oversharing. If you fall into these traps, you can do permanent damage to your reputation, and that can follow you from job-to-job.
How do you combat it?
- Don’t share your whole life with people. Keep the personal issues confined only to the people you regularly (not necessarily frequently) have meaningful conversations with. Realize that once whatever you put out there is out there, it will be out there forever.
- Delete the app from your phone. This makes Facebook somewhat less easy-to-use. It also forces you back into real-world interactions and authentic relationships.
- Keep your public communications as professional as you would on LinkedIn.
3. Only Fools Argue on Twitter
If you’ve learned anything from Roseanne Barr in the last week, it’s likely that whole lives and careers can be ruined with one stupid thing that you tweet out into the world.
As with all websites and social networks, you have to assume everything is accessible. You also have to realize most Twitter users go there simply to be outraged. Whether left-leaning or right-leaning, they’re almost entirely grandstanders with chips on their shoulders, worthless opinions, and an overwhelming compulsion to share them.
Don’t fall into the trap. Twitter can be very useful for breaking news and to observe the overview of different sides to an issue, but the moment you engage with people — even if it’s just to be nice — your odds of someone trolling you into a ball of anger increases exponentially.
We recommend making Twitter a daily stop for informational purposes, but save any of your meaningful comments for a platform where you can provide more context. And if someone does try roping you into an argument, live by this one simple word: BLOCK.
4. Pinterest and Instagram Are More Useful Than You Think
When it comes to job searches and telling the world a bit more about who you are and what you stand for, Facebook and LinkedIn have had the market cornered for quite some time. However, that’s been changing over the last couple of years thanks to sites like Pinterest and Instagram.
In many ways, these sites are more effective because they base themselves off interests and experiences rather than bloviating. Pinterest billed itself as a catalog of ideas from the early going, and while you can now access articles through the site, it was initially entirely visual, and it continues to emphasize that element. Instagram is the same way, but it’s much more about building and keeping connections through photos and videos from your actual life.
Both sites give you a quick and easy way of demonstrating your uniqueness and personality. Use them responsibly, and operate with one simple rule: emphasize the positive. Negative people repel others, and by others, that can include future employers.
5. Make Your Own Space the Top Priority
You don’t own your presence online if the only places you are are the social networks. They own you. You’re working for them. Most people aren’t okay with that once they realize it. That’s why we emphasize carving out your own space online. Get your own website and make it the place to go for anything of deeper substance.
By all means use social networks to attract attention, but never let those sites have the best of you. You’ll want to control your contacts and data as your online footprint expands. Why? Because you have true freedom from censorship and final say on the things you say, do, think, and feel.
With that comes a heavy responsibility to be professional, but it’s a burden worth shouldering.
6. Know Where and How to Find the Best Jobs
Some people will tell you that to do an effective job search online, you need to focus on sites like Monster.com, Indeed.com, and GlassDoor.com. These aren’t bad places, but you’re limiting yourself and potentially overlooking the most valuable jobs when you focus solely on these and their competitors.
The problem: most job sites won’t feature your higher-paying jobs. They’ll be entry or mid-level. Yes, there is a place for those types of jobs, but not if you’re further along in your education.
So where are the best places to look for jobs? Here are three great places, in the proper order:
- Websites specializing in your niche/field of expertise
- Organizations and social networks specializing in niche/expertise
LinkedIn is particularly effective, not because of the jobs that are available, but because of the people and contact information that is available. Going to LinkedIn, you can become the proactive job seeker (always more effective than the one who’s simply chasing listings).
To be a proactive job seeker, here’s what you need to do:
- Find companies that are doing what you want to be doing.
- Visit their profiles.
- See how many employees they have on LinkedIn.
- Read their employees’ job titles.
- Find someone most likely to help you.
- Reach out to connect, or leave LinkedIn armed with their name and info and try to find a working email address for them elsewhere. You may have to guess at this sometimes. For example, go to yourcompany.com. Look for generic emails if the main ones aren’t given. If the Contact Us email is firstname.lastname@example.org, then experiment with Bob Smith’s name. Try email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and so on and so forth.
- Send an email to one (if available) or all of the combinations until it goes through. Make sure it’s well-written, succinct, expresses who you are and why you’re contacting them. Then, wait for the opportunities to come your way.
7. Avoid the Dark Side of Building an Online Footprint
As your online footprint starts to grow and you become more popular, beware the dark side. We’ve already discussed some of that, but we haven’t discussed the one thing that fuels it, which is feeling invincible by your growing popularity.
Let’s return to the example of Roseanne Barr briefly. Two weeks ago, she was on top of the world. Her sitcom had smashed records and was a critical and fan triumph. Then, feeling emboldened, she made one stupid racist tweet. In a flash, her career was essentially over and over 100 cast and crew members lost their jobs.
Your online footprint can go to your head, and when it does, scrutiny will follow. Be responsible with it.
As you grow your online footprint, remember that the Internet never forgets a foul-up, but it quickly forgets your successes. Operate with that mindset, and try to live most of your life in the real world. Good luck!
[Featured Image by PublicDomainPictures.net]