By: Jordan Punches

You’ve updated everyone on Facebook that you’re with your “BAEs”, you’re #relatable on Twitter, and you just posted a pic of your red Starbucks cup on Instagram, and Snapchat too, of course. Sounds like you have that social media game all figured out…right? Well, if you’re in high school trying to impress your friends with how socially savvy you are-then yes-you have it figured out. If, however you are a young professional finishing up college and looking to enter the real-world of work, then you have a few things to edit and switch-up.

Lucky for you it isn’t the end of the world. Social media platforms are continuously becoming more and more user-friendly. Social media can be a powerful tool to help develop yourself professionally. Below are just a few of the features I have found to be helpful in polishing-up my digital presence:

1. Clean it up, but still be you:

This is step numero uno for making the transition to professional cyber development. Don’t be alarmed. You can still be you and post all of your witty wonders to your pages, but it is smart to consider how your content will make you look to potential employers. Honestly though, no one wants to see you and your friends all “wasty face” at your last social gathering (and I assume neither do you depending on the picture). Take some time to go through all of the content on your pages and delete or hide any of your possible regrets.  

If you don’t want to fully delete your posts, then my suggestion is to use the privacy features that are provided on the platforms. Many of us have become pros at this on Facebook anyway since Mom and Grandma made the migration to the digital frontier, but we are still left with the question, “What makes the cut?”I say, if you have a feeling that what you’re considering posting (or have posted) may be risqué, it probably is. In that case, you shouldn’t post it or you should use the privacy options to share it with only a selected audience. Keep in mind that even when you post under a privacy setting, once it is on the internet, it is there forever. To avoid any distress that may bring down the road, I recommend keeping content clean and striving for a persona along the lines of a “debonair dude” or “daring debutant” in the digital space. That should help keep it classy while still giving you room to show your personality. 

2. Brand Yourself:

This may be one of the most important things we can do as young public relations professionals and there are few easier ways to do it than on social media platforms. Creating a consistent and cohesive brand across all of your platforms is the best way to show potential employers your personality. Does this mean that you have to make all of your social media platforms look exactly the same? No, and please don’t. That’s boring. What it does mean is that you carry across similar features that represent you from platform to platform. If you’re quirky, then throw a funny picture as your header. If you’re clean-cut and professional 24/7, then maybe a personally designed logo would be more appropriate. Also try to use similar handles and/or names for all of your sites. This will help people track you down in the increasingly complex digital space. No matter how you choose to design your platforms or what name you choose, make sure they are a good representation of you. 

In addition to design features and handles, the content on your pages should also be considered. Many people make the mistake of recycling content on all of their pages. I can’t stress this enough, don’t make your pages exactly the same. It’s boring!  You need to think of unique content that portrays your personality while at the same time drawing your audiences to each of your unique platforms. What about each platform will make people want to come see it? I guarantee that it isn’t the same goofy meme on your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that they have seen 5 other places. Consider what type of content works best on each platform and for your personal brand and then post away.

3. Network socially:

Using social media to stay in contact with your network is an easy way to avoid awkward situations, but that doesn’t mean you should stalk your contacts and randomly bring up their last vacation in conversation. Instead, try to genuinely engage them in your social networks. Think about how weird it would be if you went around just telling people things you liked about them and then left the conversation at that. Strange, right? While it may be more acceptable in the digital world, it still doesn’t do a lot to build relationships. Instead of just liking their content, comment on it, share it, and actually read their blogs. Make an effort to seek your connections out on their digital platforms to make you present in their digital life. Interacting in this way should make meeting up in person or asking a favor less awkward.

One of the best places to make professional connections digitally is LinkedIn. This is a platform that is largely overlooked by the younger generation, but the importance it has in personal professional development should not be disregarded. Establishing your presence on LinkedIn early and gaining connections are excellent first steps towards building a strong professional network. In addition, (if used correctly) it helps to keep your resume up to date and allows you to reach out to people you have made connections with in the past. From there you are able to rekindle those old contacts and possibly land an internship or job. All of these aspects are important because in this industry, it sometimes comes down to who you know.

Social media channels are constantly in flux with new features and updates coming out all the time. The recommendations above may not always be applicable, but they have worked for me to help me grow my personal networks. Hopefully they will help you too.  

Jordan Punches is a senior at Grand Valley State University, majoring in Advertising/Public Relations with an emphasis on Public Relations. He is an enthusiastic account executive at GrandPR and the alumni relations chair of the Grand Valley PRSSA chapter. Jordan loves making connections with people and has lead a number of teams in various organizations, including serving a term in office at the state level for a leadership organization. He is organized, motivated, learns quickly and enjoys presentations and public speaking. Jordan actively looks for more opportunities to learn and develop his skills while always encouraging a good time.