If you are like most people on planet Earth these days, you are using some form of social media. Heck, even my 83-year old mother is on Facebook. Sure, it’s always fun to share photos of your children and pets, and crazy rants about all things life. But have you stopped to think about what these platforms are saying about your personal brand? Do you even care? Well, you should.

Social media has changed our behavior as it relates to interacting with friends, family and even business customers and clients. While it has its positives like making it easy to keep in touch with those you probably long forgot, the negatives also exist. The Social Media Age has now created the generation of oversharing information and regrettable acts. To be fair, I was no angel in my formative years and thankfully, there’s no digital footprint to remind me or show others my less than proud behavior. That’s not the case today.

What does your digital story say about your personal brand?

We’ve all seen photos of friends posing together in scantily clad clothing, holding bottles of Mike’s Hard Lemonade while sticking out their tongues. What is with the tongues? It’s probably fair to say these individuals might not be ideal employee candidates for a prestigious law firm or any corporate job – or maybe they are, depending on the company. It certainly screams “I’m wild and like to party!” So, which image are you trying to portray?

Reality check: just like your destiny, you control your own story and personal brand. And just like businesses using storytelling to sell products and services, you can do the same thing to sell yourself – minus the tongue-sticking out part.

Every picture tells a story and that’s true for your personal brand as well. I worked at a public relations agency at the start of the social media craze. The first thing we did when receiving a resume for a potential hire was look them up online. We represented a lot of corporate clients and it was important to select mature looking individuals that could not only represent our clients well, but our firm. Pictures of half-naked bodies with captions that read, “Got so wasted last night and don’t even know how I’m still alive!” was not the image we wanted. No judgement to your lifestyle, party on! We just didn’t want to hire you.

When the Story Doesn’t Get Told the Way You Want

Sometimes social media is not your friend, especially when you make bad decisions. Take the recent example of the 10 high school students who were accepted to Harvard only to have their admission revoked due to bad judgement on their Facebook. Whether you agree with Harvard admissions or not, the bottom line is that these students made a super bad choice in how they portrayed themselves on social media. In the end, Harvard decided they didn’t want them representing their university.

Then there was the daughter of an ousted private school teacher who had recently won an $80,000 settlement in his age discrimination case. Before the money was in the bank the daughter took to her social media and posted how her father’s huge victory was paying for her trip to Europe and proceeded to tell the school to “Stick It.” Needless to say, the school rescinded its offer, the father got zippo, and who knows what happened to the daughter. Although, we can take a guess.

Unfortunately, these are only two examples in a sea of hundreds on how social media can go horribly wrong. When you’re trying to sell yourself and promote your personal brand, as my mama always told me, “if you don’t have anything nice to say — keep your mouth shut.” Or in this case, stay off social media.

Irresistible Storytelling Personal Brand5 Tips to Improve Your Personal Digital Brand

  • Use spellcheck and proper grammar. Honestly, this is true for anything you write.
  • Scan your social media photos and take down the questionable images that may scare children – and adults.
  • Moving forward, use common sense when posting to social media platforms. A good question to ask yourself beforehand, “Would I have done this if I were sober?” If no, delete it.
  • When thinking about your target audience, (employer, university, etc.) position yourself as someone who adds value — not just someone who’s the life of the party.
  • Be honest, show passion and use good judgement – all three go a long way.

It’s often said we only get one chance to make a first impression. This has never been more accurate than in today’s digital climate. And this holds true for everyone using social media and the Internet, not just the millennials, Gen-Xers, Gen-Yers, etc. I’m talking to you too, mom! But no matter where your story appears (social media platforms, resumes, CVs, personal websites, blogs, bios, etc.) it’s important to tell the story YOU want told, in the best possible manner.

Do you need help telling your story or building your personal brand? Sign up for my FREE Storytelling in 3 Easy Steps worksheet below. And feel free to leave any of your social media tips for building a personal brand in the comments below.

Your story…to be continued