He said he’s glad he was able to avoid some of those potential downfalls. “I’m kind of glad Twitter and Facebook weren’t around when I was just getting started in Washington.”
Bonjean said to treat all social media “like it’s a virtual job interview,” while Matsdorf likened it to “talking with the media or talking with a constituent.”
“Treat everything you do and say as if the employer is seeing it,” Bonjean warned.
And many employers will be able to find social media accounts. Although users can put some limitations on who can see their Facebook and Twitter content, that doesn’t make it invisible, warned Patrick Hynes, president of new media and online communication agency Hynes Communications. “Anything that lives on the Web is going to be seen by anyone who wants to see it,” he said.
For Hynes, consistency is key.
“I think the most important thing to do would be completely authentic or be completely professional, but don’t try to mix the two,” he said.
Creating dual accounts for personal use and professional use is one option, he said. Regardless of whether the nonprofessional account is personal or humorous in nature, such as a parody account, acknowledge ownership from the beginning, Hynes advised.
“I think fake Twitter feeds are funny, but I think that you should be prepared to be transparent,” he said. “Trying to maintain anonymity is just going to get you caught.”
Land a Job
After establishing a consistent, polished identity across social media platforms, job seekers can use those sites to find opportunities.
Hughes suggests starting with LinkedIn. “Every single applicant should have a LinkedIn account,” he said, calling the site “a superlative way of representing yourself and opening up doors.”
Another benefit to LinkedIn is its job postings and education- or industry-based networks, Hughes said. Some of the networks are vast: The American University Alumni group alone has more than 9,000 members.
Employers are also using Twitter to connect with potential applicants, Hughes said. For example, @IdealistJobsDC tweets Washington, D.C., job postings from the website Idealist.org.
Applicants who contact employers by more traditional means can demonstrate their Web savvy by including information about social media accounts on a résumé.
Hughes has seen students include Twitter handles and other related information, but he advises that they only do so if it’s relevant. “I would only put a Twitter account on your résumé if you’re using it primarily for a professional or field-related content,” he said.
Matt Lira, director of new media for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), has seen some applicants go even further.
He recalled one instance when a job seeker bought ads on Facebook to target potential employers. “That’s a risk,” he said, “but I thought it was pretty clever.”
While acknowledging that social media savvy is not always a prerequisite, “having some experience is warranted,” Lira said. “It varies greatly depending on the office.”