On-line personas and future job seekers

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Most of us who run our own businesses and have an on-line presence are very much aware of the need to stay professional. This means that we are careful with our language at all times including when talking to each other on Twitter and Facebook. I do have some friends, especially on Facebook who are not in business on their own account, but employees and to be fair to them they are pretty sensible. However, I have noticed that some of their friends on Facebook, who are not my friends or connections, are much less careful. I see bad language and some pretty stupid comments.

I am not a prude. I have been round the block, been down the pub, and travelled all over the country supporting a well-known football team, so I have heard everything. None of this bothers me.

I just wonder what is going to happen when some of these whose careless remarks are there for all to see on Facebook are looking for a job. People talk to other people, and it doesn’t matter if privacy controls are very tight, word will get out. Also, imagine a person who is foul-mouthed on-line or even criticises their boss is asked by that boss to add them on Facebook. Either they do so to avoid embarrassment or they ignore the request, and the boss cannot understand why. There is going to be a difficulty.

It is important for those who wish to work until retirement that they realise that more than ever, walls have ears, and especially in the digital age. Be sure your sins will find you out. You can be more sure than ever that they will.

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How I tailor my business purchases and strategies to my needs

An alternative title to this post might be “How I run an introverted business in an extroverted way” since the two are inter-linked.

My business is for the most part involved in dealing with tax issues. There is some flair required, but no artistic ability. That means that in terms of hardware, I have what I need, and invest in the literal sense in what is required. In my case that means a Windows-based network to run the specialist software I need to buy. There is no equivalent for say Mac or indeed for a Linux system, so I use Windows and on the whole it is reliable. Yes, I could use a Windows emulator but it would be an additional risk to data.

I do like gadgets. If I had the resources and I thought it made sense I would have a Mac, an iPhone, and iPad, an iPod and every new toy possible, but maybe I am a bit conservative. Though I could claim most of them for business expense purposes, in reality it would not wash with my conscience. I content myself with having loaded Ubuntu on two old machines both over eight years old which are not worth a bean now but are much happier with the lighter requirements of Linux. They can still function well though they would not manage with their old Windows systems in the modern world.

My point is that I do not invest more money than I think I need to to take the business forward. I try not to invest too little either.

However, I do think it well worth targeting on-line presence with some investment, both financially and in terms of time. My websites and indeed my blogs will be undergoing a makeover very soon which is where the financial investment is coming in. I need to be noticed as we all do.

So I am active in social media,and of course it is fun interacting with people who were already friends, who have become friends on-line, and in looking for more amongst those whom I am following and who are following me. I invest a few hours a week, and it is after all no chore talking to friends as well as commenting on their blogs and mentioning my own.

It is important not to try to do too much. Just as in off-line networking one can go to too many events organized by too many different people and end up not having time to follow-up so it is with on-line networking. You can find me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Ecademy and FriendFeed. If you want to you can find me on Facebook. I think any more would spread my attention too thin to have conversations with people, and that is what it is about, even for an introvert like me with a necessary but not very showy business.

I am registered on foursquare because I was invited, but I do not have a clever phone yet, not being convinced I need one. Convince me, and I will join you all there.

In the meantime I will continue my on-line stuff as it is and will attempt anything else I think will be useful, as social media evolves and never stays still. I will keep blogging and picking up blogging tips. Chris Brogan recommended Technorati for helping blog reading figures – thank you Chris – and here is a code for the Technorati people : G4W22KBUX42W

We have to be out there talking and being seen, and for some of us it was a skill we had to learn. However, just as we need to preserve our cash flow and tailor our expenses to our needs, we have to follow the same philosophy with our social media too. That way it will be fun and will not overwhelm us.

What do you think? Do you see things differently, and why? I would love to know.

© Jon Stow 2010

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Managing our online reputation – a personal view

This is a popular subject for bloggers, and we know that our online reputation is important, but somehow human nature seems to mean that many of us are as casual about it as with our offline reputation.

Most of us away from our computers do not say unpleasant things about others and whilst there is always gossip and tittle-tattle, by the time it is passed on, if it is, it is often taken with a pinch of salt. The recipient of the information often clouds the issue in their mind by thinking about the teller’s motives for passing on the information and anyway much of what is said soon fades in the memory. Gossip and even things we have witnessed are forgotten in time and in the light of later events.

However, our online behaviour is there for all to see. Everything we say may be taken down and used in evidence against us. Of course we manage our professional websites, but our blogs and other web material can be seen by anyone at any time. A comment I make to someone on Twitter about our weekend plans is in my Google Alerts, sometimes within a couple of hours, so quite apart from giving information to my followers, anyone can find out anything I have divulged at any time. I cannot retract remarks I have made on Twitter, and if I delete anything from my blog, it could still be seen through Google cache for sometime to come, and anyway it might have been re-blogged or copied somewhere else.

At this point one might say that “what you see is what you should get” but really we do not want to reveal all our foibles even through Facebook, because if we are careless, we could give away a lot of information people do not need to have. We could even become victims of identity fraud or simple impersonation, further damaging our reputations. Whilst we may want to be as open with our friends as we would in an off-line environment we do not know who is watching with evil intent, or who might simple misconstrue a remark taken out of context.

When I am going to meet anyone new in a business context, including a new client, I do a web search. I am sure most other people do too. That is not to pry, but often because we need to make our new acquaintances feel we are interested and to be prepared for our meeting and for what issues might be raised. It is simple due diligence, but who knows what impression an ill thought-out remark might give in the wrong virtual ears or hands?

I try to show enough of my personality online to give readers an idea of my interests, of what I do for a living and for recreation and of course family. Those readers need something to which to relate, so I have pretty much stopped the boring stuff like Twitter advertising, or promoting myself directly through my blogs. Of course many may still think I am boring. Someone more or less told me so before “un-following” me on Twitter. However, I think I would rather be boring than have every cuss word I might have thought broadcast on Twitter, or every detail of our family life known to the world.

What is your approach? I would love to hear your views.

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Enterprise and risk

I have been talking about risk recently in another context. I was a little dumbfounded yesterday when my Mum said she was told by a family member that she should not sign up to Facebook because there was a risk of identity fraud. Of course there is a small risk. I am indebted to @royatkinson for this link and it could be said that I and all of us who are active with profiles on-line run some risk, but what is life without risk?

The reality is that most small businesses which offer services of any kind and very many who are making and / or selling a product need an on-line presence, and what is more, need to engage with their network. In fact, you need to be on-line to get a network beyond a comparatively small number of friends, which is not enough people to refer you. I was just trying to list how many websites where I have a profile. In terms of business and social networks I have at least ten, and must have more I cannot think of at the moment. I have four blogs: two for business and two personal.

The point is that we have to give some of ourselves in order to be noticed. There are then several steps until we get to business. We need to enhance our reputations (or hope to) and be helpful and give useful information to others, but we need a public presence on-line to get known to further our businesses.

I think the contrast between me and our relative telling my mother not to sign up to Facebook is that I am in business on my own account. The relation has been in a large, safe, cocooned corporate environment for thirty years and is involved in IT security, and she clearly cannot see beyond the small risk to her employer (“more than my job’s worth to access Facebook at work”) to allowing my Mum to have a bit of fun making friends and signing up to her favourite jockey’s fan appreciation society.

There is no success in business without risk. If we are in the front line with our own businesses then we assess the risks and take them if necessary, looking at the likely though seldom certain outcome. It will be hard for those coming out of large corporates in the recession job losses, because they may be too risk-averse to start well in the freelance world. Those of us who have been round the block have learned to live with the risks, which reminds me that I will help my Mum sign up to Facebook next time I drop in.

© Jon Stow 2009