What you say and how you say it can have a long-lasting digital trail. Careers in Audit’s Simon Wright advises how accountants can manage their online reputation.
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Putting it in stark terms, what you say online and or via social media can make or break you. It can build or tarnish your reputation – not only you personally but the people around you and those who you work for – whether you work in practice or industry.
But there is no escaping social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn and the potential impact they could have on your online reputation.
Managing your online reputation in the right way will go a long way to ensure you give exactly the right impression to your current employer, future employer and existing and potential clients.
Play it the wrong way and you could miss out on a great job offer, lose a client or get yourself fired.
Make sure you have a profile
Far be it for me to scare the accountancy profession off using online tools and maintaining online profiles – as the owner of a digital job board, I whole-heartedly believe in all things online and believe we should embrace all opportunities that arise from these types of media. So, I am keen to stress it’s important that you have a profile online.
How many of you have ever Googled a name or a company name before a meeting or interview? The chances are quite high that you have done so in the past. Likewise, it may not surprise you that existing bosses, potential recruiters, employers and clients will be doing exactly the same before they consider contacting you or meeting you.
Do consider whether your online profile presents you in the right way and you are ‘selling’ all of your greatest achievements succinctly on, say, LinkedIn, which is one of the most popular professional platforms searched when looking for new staff.
Maybe take a fresh look at your existing online profiles to ensure the information reflects all of your up-to-date expertise and experience – post any articles or white papers you may have written or conferences/panel discussions you have recently spoken at.
Try and take a step back and imagine what would the person would think if they read your profile and fill in any missing gaps to ensure anyone viewing your profile gets a true reflection of the professional you.
Choose a photo that is professional. If you can, invest in a professional headshot. Also, beware of commenting on other people’s appearance/headshots on LinkedIn – some may remember the media storm which arose when a solicitor commented on a barrister contact’s attractive picture. Keep things professional.
Beware of the blurred lines of work and personal brand
Everyone is entitled to life outside the workplace. However, do be aware that the lines between your professional and personal brand online are increasingly blurred. It is becoming harder to have a truly private ‘you’ online.
Be mindful about your professional position and accept that much of what we share online (even if this is on seemingly private app) can be made public to more than close friends and family. This may be fine if you are trying to promote something positive (particularly for you and your company).
However, on the flip side, this isn’t just about the potential damage it could do to you but potentially the company you work for.
Before posting anything online, ask yourself ‘is there anything that could be deemed discriminatory (race, religion, disability, gender, politics, pregnancy or age)?’
You may feel passionate about a particular political or current affairs issue, but unless you are working as a columnist for a publication, your views are best contained behind closed doors or around the kitchen table with family and or friends.
High flying business executives have lost their jobs and their reputation remains in tatters all because they didn’t consider the impact of a ‘shoot from the hip’ comment written in less than 30 seconds.
On the same lines, people often post something provocative as they are publicity seeking and want to raise their profile. Don’t feel compelled to get into an open discussion.
And it can't be stressed enough: be very careful with humour. Banter or a jovial comment when communicated across social media can be misinterpreted or come across downright offensive. Even comedians like Frankie Boyle can be hauled up so no-one is immune and that includes accountants.
The importance of privacy settings
Pictures of your debauched stag/hen night posted on social media or even a fun office party, may be regarded as simply fun memories to you and the rest of the party but it may not send out the right messages to your employer or existing, potential clients – which is why it’s important to check your privacy settings are firmly switched on.
Be aware you may need to update your settings if you switch to say a new phone or other electronic devices.
Finally, it’s worth noting that some apps regularly share information with other websites or apps. So, in your next coffee break, do yourself a favour and check all the right settings are in place and your online reputation continues to remain intact.