Social Media Guidelines for Recent College Graduates

social media guidelines“What’s your favorite resource for better social media use by young professionals?” A couple of weeks ago a friend asked me this question via Twitter. I admit to being a little stumped at first, but suggested a couple of articles from Fast Company and the Harvard Business Review. After further discussion, we agreed that while there are many articles that present “things not to do on social media”, there aren’t a lot of resources out there that spell out what you should be doing.

Social media use is everywhere these days. By now you probably already know that employers are using social media to screen applicants. And you are aware that using appropriate language online and posting a formal headshot with your profiles can improve your online presence. What else can you do to make the transition from school to professional use with your social media accounts?

Join Your Crowd

Where are people working in your industry or field congregating online? Think about your career role models, from professors and colleagues to authors and thought leaders. Research their social media use as a guide to where and how to participate.

  • Participate in a niche online community. LinkedIn is a great place to start, but it’s a big place. Chances are that you can also find an online community dedicated to your career field, which include job boards, discussions, and opportunities to connect with a smaller group of people who share your specific interests. GovLoop, for example, provides resources for local, state, and federal government professionals, while EnergyFolks supports those working in energy and environment jobs.
  • Follow the norms in your field. Each social platform has its own culture, often created by the users themselves. Your industry and occupation also have informal expectations of their members. Creative careers are often associated with less conservative or traditional expectations for profile pictures and updates, while corporate jobs have stricter “rules.” Take some time to assess what professionals in your field are doing with social media as you work to establish your own voice and presence within the larger community.

Get Social at Work

Your next position may require using social media as part of the job. The opposite is also a possibility – some companies prohibit social media participation at work, personal and professional. If your company shares its expectations for social media, you will want to know what they are in terms of both internal and external use.

  • Review company guidelines. Whether or not it’s your intention, your online activities can reflect on your employer, too. Not all companies have formal policies about how employees use social media, but it’s worth researching. provides five examples of company social media policies, which include things like “don’t let social media affect your job performance” and “it is important for employees to properly define their affiliation with the [company] as they would do offline.” Explore your company’s website and internal communications systems, and check with human resources for more information.
  • Join the office social platform. Getting to know people and the office culture in a new workplace can be challenging, particularly if you are a remote employee logging on from another location. Many companies use tools like Slack and Yammer to encourage private work-related (and often social) connections among team members. Accept the invitation to join a new system, set up your profile, and jump into the conversations.

Set Social Networking Goals

Many social media tasks are ongoing, such as profile updates and privacy setting maintenance. Add these things to your calendar, and think about how social media can do more for you than serve as an online resume.

  • Learn more about your career field. If you are just getting started, you probably have a lot of questions about potential paths, continued education and training and other aspects of career development. Career decisions don’t end once you accept a job offer. Social media systems, especially those with a professional focus, provide easy introductions to those with more experience in your area of work. Reach out to ask questions and even set up virtual informational interviews.
  • Make in-person connections. While your initial professional networking efforts may take place online, take advantage of opportunities to build your professional network and strengthen these connections by meeting face-to-face. Local networking events, business meetings, and professional association conferences are all places where you can meet people you already know via social media. Find out in advance who will be in attendance, and make contact to suggest an on-site meet up.

Study Social Media

Social media may be part of your job, even if you aren’t working in a marketing or communications role. More in-depth knowledge of how social media platforms work can lead to new job skills and a better understanding of how these tools can impact business operations at all levels. Hiring manager Gerry Moran provides social media advice for new college grads, which includes the tip that “Companies will expect you to be an expert!”

  • Learn about social engagement and measurement. How are people using social media in your industry? What are they saying and what does it all mean? Moran suggests multiple tools for “listening” to social channels and monitoring the constant stream. Social strategy options for communication are seemingly endless, so being able to determine works best with a particular audience to reach a specific goal has value.
  • Read social media publications. Moran also recommends staying up to date with the latest social communication trends. Add blogs and other resources to your professional reading list. Social Media Today and The Moz Blog are two options to get you started.

There’s a general expectation that as a working professional you will know how to use social media professionally. Craft your own approach with specific goals in mind. And keep an eye on the changing nature of technology and emerging roles of social media in the workplace. Make the most of what is possible with social communication to enhance your career.

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Source: Inside Online Learning Blog