I was having a chat with someone the other day about social media and I tried explain to an anti-social media person why it was important to have an online footprint professionally. I think nowadays social media is so accessible (with privacy statements continuously changing and all) that there really isn’t a line between what you can consider professional versus personal. The reasons are the same. This makes it even more important to own your online presence.
1. To control what others find online. At bare minimum, it’s good to have a website that has a good headshot of your face, a mini biography about what you do and perhaps some work samples. A Linkedin or an About.me page is fine. This way you can provide an URL to your employers (or people you meet) for a first impression beyond your resume. Your employers are also probably going to Google your name so having a headshot is important to distinguish yourself from the other Joe Shmoe shotgunning a beer in a Youtube video. If you’re lucky enough to register the web domain with your actual name, go for it.
2. Open yourself to new opportunities. I never went to school for social media. It was something I learnt by experimenting, while managing multiple websites. I was an early adopter of Twitter. Through it, I’ve met some of the most interesting and like-minded people who are now some great friends offline. I’ve also had the opportunity to do things I never thought I’d do (like meet Phoenix or dance on stage with Girl Talk). I also worked places I never thought I’d end up. I never applied to work at Exclaim. Despite not being a journalism grad, the director of operations actually found me online after meeting me at a show and sent me a Facebook message. There’s a lot of fish in that sea but you have to have some sort of bait to hook them!
3. To be ready for what the future might hold. Maybe one day in the future, you might want to start your own business, write a book or even just raise money for that marathon you suddenly feel like running. Having a dedicated following on Twitter or Facebook (or whatever social networks you choose to use) takes time to build. However, a strong community can really aid to kick start that new project.