Top 10 tips on how to avoid a professional embarrassment on Facebook

Employers are monitoring social networks more than ever – are you at risk?

Virgin Atlantic recently fired 13 employees for participating “on the networking site Facebook, which brought the company into disrepute and insulted some of our passengers,” according to a statement from the airlines. Rob Diana discussed the issue on his blog Regular Geek and does an excellent job of looking at both sides: employee privacy and company reputation.

Regardless of how you feel about the individual privacy issue, it does not change the fact that employers are now monitoring social networks closer than ever. So how do you avoid a potentially embarrassing situation? Here are 10 tips on keeping your social networking clean:

Cision Blog bloggers hula-hoop on Facebook

Cision Blog bloggers hula-hoop on Facebook

  1. Keep an eye on tagged photos. Both MySpace and Facebook give you the ability to untag yourself in photos – even if someone else posted the photo. Though the photo may still be out there, employers will not be able to search for those photos of you. Or as one PR specialist told me on Twitter, “Avoid posing for those pictures in the first place.”
  2. Keep private comments private. MySpace, Facebook and Twitter all have the option to send private messages to your friends (on MySpace, use Messages, on Facebook, use your Inbox, and on Twitter, use Direct Messages). Don’t leave Comments on MySpace, Write on a Wall on Facebook or send a Tweet on Twitter if you don’t want others to see it.
  3. If necessary, keep your page private. All of the sites mentioned above also have options for keeping your entire profile private, so if you can’t help but broadcast your latest exploits to all of your friends, isolate it to that: your friends.
  4. Watch what others are saying. If someone leaves a comment that you wouldn’t want everyone to see, delete it. They won’t be offended, and if they are, just explain that you are keeping your page clean.
  5. Check social networking sites often. I am always surprised at how much activity has occurred around my pages if I don’t check Facebook or MySpace for a few days. If you neglect one of these sites, friends might be tagging you in photos that everyone shouldn’t see, writing about your nights out on the town or worse. Keep up-to-date on what they are saying and doing by logging in regularly. You can also set up email notifications to inform you when there’s activity on the page.
  6. Don’t drunk network. In the days when all a partier had to worry about was drunk dialing, the embarrassment was isolated to those in your phone book. Signing on to social networking sites after a night of drinking can result in embarrassment in front of the whole world.
  7. Don’t say anything negative about your employer, your company, your product or service. We all need to vent about our jobs sometime – but keep those complaints private. Nothing will turn an employer off quicker than negative or insulting comments about the company.
  8. Job seekers should have a professional email address.  If you have a ‘fun’ email address tied to your social networking page (like sexyguy23@gmail.com), don’t use that email address on your resume. In fact, don’t EVER use an email address like that on a resume. Create a professional email address for your job search like hsullivan@hotmail.com. That way, if your potential employer searches for your MySpace or Facebook page by your email address, they won’t find it.
  9. Remember who your friends are. Many times we add friends to social networking sites who are coworkers, supervisors or others we have professional relationships with. Don’t forget that you’ve added those friends when you post comments or photos that you don’t want people at work to see.
  10. Continue to be yourself. Employers understand that your personal page on a social networking site is just that: your personal page. While you don’t want photos or comments that would be unacceptable in the workplace, it is totally fine to have content that may be outside of how you normally behave at work. For example, you can find the photo in this blog post on my Facebook page of me hula-hooping with fellow Cision Blog blogger Jay Krall at a going-away party for a colleague. While this may not be the most professional photo in the world, I don’t mind anyone at Cision seeing this photo of me.

So don’t be afraid of social media! With a few simple steps to keeping it clean, you can enjoy social networking and still avoid embarrassment at work.



  • Rob Diana

    Not sure I would say I did an excellent job, but thanks for the kind words. This is also a very good checklist for people. I think everyone needs to remember the rules of professionalism, and this is a good reminder.

  • Lisa Hoover

    If you’re entire profile isn’t private, I’d at least recommend keeping personal profile details to a minimum. There’s really no reason for your professional contacts to know about your private dating or married life. More than once I’ve seen people change profile details to “dating Sally!” only to change it when things don’t work out. *cringe*

    Even worse, I’ve known contacts who’ve broadcasted impending divorces (Facebook says, “Bob is no longer married to Jane”) probably a lot sooner than they’ve wanted to in order to have an accurate profile. Makes me wince every time.

  • Thanks Rob!

    Lisa – that’s a great tip. I’ve definitely cringed in similar situations. I think it’s easy to forget how many people we broadcast that news to…

  • Sylke

    Tip #9 is on the money! Everyone take an extra second to remember who their friends are, especially on Twitter and Facebook. I always think twice before I post anything on Facebook, because nearly 25% are work-related contacts, one being the chairman of our board of directors. I never post anything on Facebook that will come back to haunt me – today or months down the road.

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  • While Facebook may provide a great tool for keeping in touch with your friends, it can also be a very dangerous thing. The good thing about it is that your life is open to everyone on Facebook. The bad thing is that your life is open to everyone on Facebook. Be careful not to put things that you wouldn't want others to see on your page.

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