The use of social media has become a daily part of our lives at work and at play. As your social sharing moves from private to public media, precautions are needed to protect your personal brand, job search, and career.

With social media it is easy to jump in feet first without using your head.

Just open a Twitter account and begin sharing what is on your mind. Breaking Bad Social Media Behaviors Not Safe for Personal Branding




When social media newbies, digital immigrants, and Facebook refugees venture out into the World Wide Social Web, their social shares are publicly broadcast to where personal brands are easily damaged.


“Questionable behaviors are breaking bad all over the social web.”

With Facebook, your social activity is typically shared among friends, family, and people you know.

With Twitter and other social media, your social activity is typically shared with the public.

And, that public may include current bosses and coworkers, career stakeholders, and potential employers.

A recent study by Career Builder found that 56 percent of the 2,000 recruiters surveyed used social media “to see if the candidate has a professional online persona.” Unfortunately, when looking for the good, most have also found the bad or the questionable behaviors that caused them not to hire a candidate.

If using social media for personal branding and job search (PB&J), how others see you on the social web is fragile and your best digital first impression should never be left to chance or trial and error.

Are you breaking bad on social media?

Try to avoid these breaking bad social media behaviors for they are not safe for personal branding (NSFPB):

  1. Lying.

Of course, everyone wants to show themselves at their best. But, sometimes the truth can be stretched a bit. You may make up a more impressive job title. You may add some fictitious details in your accomplishments. You may complete a work task a few times and call it a skill.

You may even show yourself as the expert that you are not.

Your stretching of the truth will come to light when you try to benefit from it. A job interview may give it away when you look better online than you do in person. A task performance for a job or client may give it away when your performance does not meet expectations. Someone that knows you and your skills or work habits may give it away when asked for an unofficial reference.

Or, a potential hiring decision maker may find a discrepancy between the details found on your resume versus your social profiles.

Social media and its transparency require profiles and social activities that are authentic and consistent. This true consistency is needed across social profiles, with your resume/vita, and between the social online you and the physical offline you.

Advanced Tip: Just as you would carefully review your resume for spelling errors, you should diligently review and confirm the accuracy of the details found on your social profiles, especially LinkedIn.

  1. Stealing.

It is so easy to do a Google search for an image, right click it, and save it on your blog or share it on social media. Who is to know? Who is to care? After all, you and I are small players in this big cyber universe, so no one will notice.


They can. And, they will.

To take something without asking is illegal and a violation of copyright laws. Yes, that is stealing. And, you may get called out, publicly; or sued, painfully.

The process is called source attribution and in most cases you only have the rights to share others’ images or content with their express consent (meaning you have to ask) and then clearly providing them credit by name and link attribution.

A good solution is to search for images or visual content that is clearly labeled as Creative Commons, and then follow the specific attribution requirements for each use.

Advanced Tip: An even better solution is to capture your own background images with your smart phone, then add narrative using Canva or the WordSwag app to create title graphics and quote graphics for your blog posts and social media headers.

  1. Cheating.

The most extreme form of cheating on social media is in buying likes or followers.

On the surface, it improves your social proof (or first impression of popularity). Below the surface, with a bit of effort anyone (such as a job interviewer or potential boss) can verify the authenticity of your social popularity. With a deep dive into your followers/connections anyone can determine their relevancy and the extent of their social engagement with you (fake connections don’t interact).

So, don’t go there.

To me, another serious form of social cheating is with the practice (often automated) of following or connecting with someone, then unfollowing them as soon as they follow back. Again, while this trickery may more quickly improve your social proof numbers (and the follower to following ratio) in the eyes of others, it borders on questionable ethics.

Another form of social trickery that is growing (and often automated) is with the process of favoriting tweets that contain a particular keyword. Then newbies and those with generous hearts are more inclined to follow even though the original source of the favorite has no intention of following back. You should be suspicious of a non-follower with a very large number of favorites that chooses to favorite one of your tweets.

Advanced Tip: Use to identify and unfollow those that follow then unfollow you on Twitter. And, never automatically follow someone just because they favorited one of your tweets.

  1. Profanity.

Yes, cursing among friends can be cool. And, common.

However, the profane use of words that you would not want your mother to hear you say is not cool from a professional and personal branding and job search and career development perspective.

So don’t.

Again, just as you would not use salty language in a job interview or on a resume or cover letter, so goes the same high standard when using the social web for personal branding.

  1. Controversy.

Some topics divide strong opinions and passion to both sides.

It is best not to share strong opinions or one-sided content on religion, politics, sexual orientation, race, gender, or sports.

It would be a disappointment to miss out on a promotion or a job opportunity because of your strong opinions shared on the social web about a subject in the opposite of a person conducting a job or promotion interview.

Unless you are seeking a job/career in these subject areas, try not to get into a publicly broadcasted social discussion on these potentially controversial topics.

  1. Drugs.

Answer me this:

1) Do you check your social media before getting out of bed in the morning?

2) Do you check your social media more often during the day than you check your email?

3) Are you selfie driven in your social sharing behavior?

4) Have you ever tweeted while driving (or at a stop light)?

5) Is it difficult for you go for 24 hours without checking your Facebook?

6) Do others regularly ask you to put down your smart phone and talk, go to sleep, eat, or pay attention?

7) Have you ever walked into something or someone while looking down at the social media on your smart phone?

If you answered yes to five or more of the above questions, then social media is your virtual drug.

And, what are the dangers of this for your personal brand?

Danger one: the fear of missing out (FOMO) can result in anti-social behavior at the physical level. It is not good for your personal brand if you are regularly seen with eyes down and looking at your phone while walking the hallway or during meetings (or class).

Danger two: narcissism can lead to the repeated social sharing of unprofessional selfies and too much information (TMI). Employers rarely list self-absorbed as a qualification or skill for employment or promotion.

Danger three: the mixing of virtual and physical drugs or intoxicants can be devastating to a personal brand. While under the influence, it is easy to believe that a bit of social lubrication can extend to the most original, creative, and brilliant thoughts deserving a social share to others.


“Just say no and step away from the smart phone before it makes you and your personal brand look dumb.”

Sure you can take two aspirin and delete what you social shared in the morning. But, while you sleep it could become the tweet heard around the world, or worse: read by a current boss or potential employer who surely will awaken earlier than you.

  1. Violence.

If you agree that participating in a happy hour bar fight with your boss and coworkers as witnesses is bad for your personal brand, then so goes any word slinging arguments, controversial patter, or verbally violent troll-ish behavior on the social web.

Even if: they started it.

Even if: they said something about your mother or hair style.

Even if: “you just can’t let them get away with that.”

Don’t participate.

Don’t use social media under the influence of anger.

“Don’t feed the social trolls for they will definitely bite back.”

Advanced Tip: Always moderate comments on your blog. Quickly unfollow or unlike anyone prodding or fishing for an unsavory spontaneous reaction from you.

  1. Vanity.

Narcissism runs amuck on the social web as evidenced by the overabundance of selfies and the social sharing of too much information (TMI).

Even among those with a left eye open for professionalism and personal branding, oversharing or wanton self-promotion can disinterest a potential social connection or kill an existing social connection with boredom.

Do you really think others will connect with you at a personal level if all you do is talk about yourself with nary a hint of interest in others?

Of course not.

When physical networking, do you walk around tossing out business cards while mostly talking about yourself?

Of course you do not.

Then, your social media networking should not do this either.

True, a resume/vita or your LinkedIn Profile is nothing but a big poster board for your experiences, accomplishments, and humblebrags.

Nonetheless, your social sharing should focus on a content marketing strategy that shows others (connections, hiring decision makers, and career stakeholders) that you have a career focus, continue to learn in that career focus, and desire to connect, engage, and learn from others.

Advanced Tip: Try not to broadcast every little update you make to your LinkedIn profile. While in profile edit mode, just click “no” to the “do you want to broadcast” box in the right column.

Advanced Tip: Don’t share your one-sided conversations with everyone on Twitter. Selectively begin a reply to another with a @Name (for example: @DennyMcCorkle I loved your last blog post). If a character or space is added before the @Name, then you are sharing your one-sided conversation with everyone, rather than a few.

  1. Negativity.

One of the big growth areas for Twitter is its use for customer service or care. Many social media marketing oriented companies continuously monitor and address customer concerns and complaints. Thus, many customers have now realized that their public disgruntlement may be more quickly addressed through Twitter than by calling the 800 number.

Don’t be the guy or gal that shows potential employers that you are a complainer, whiner, grumbler, or a griper.

A positive digital disposition is important for your personal brand. Just keep the general tone of your social shares as positive as possible and save those complaints for that 800-number or company email.

And, never ever complain on social media about past or current employers, coworkers, bosses, professors, or spouses.

Is this really a problem on Twitter?

See for yourself.

Do a Twitter search for: “professor sucks” and/or “boss sucks.”

It appears that a lot of near graduating students seeking jobs and careers have a few harsh, critical, and even offensive personal brand damaging words to describe their professors.

Advanced Tip: Even in more private social networks such as your personal Facebook or Instagram, be careful not to let your negativity or criticism make you look bad to your connections with friends, family, and friends of the family. They are watching and forming digital impressions based on your social behaviors that could influence their future cooperation for job referrals.

The Take-Away.

As with the habit of picking your nose in public, you may not realize you are doing it until someone says something to you about it.

Or, as with speeding on the interstate highways, it is easy to get caught up in the lemming mentality and do it because others are doing it.

And so it goes with the potential for questionable behaviors on social media.

“Just because everyone else is breaking bad on the social web, does not mean that you should.”

What do you think about these questionable social media behaviors? Can you add to my list? Please comment.

Image credit: Denny McCorkle

This article originally appeared on Digital Self Marketing Advantage and has been republished with permission.