Staying professional on social media 

Keep your reputation in mind before you hit “post.” 
by Elizabeth Rock 

Staying professional on social mediaAs social media platforms continually evolve, it becomes more important for businesses and professionals to become involved with them. Social media offers a chance to connect with clients on a personal level and maintain a brand across all marketing channels. As Christopher Ekimoff, CPA, CGMA, director of forensic and litigation consulting at FTI Consulting, said, “Social media is your chance to create a personal message for your niche and help drive your career in the direction you want.”

However, it can be challenging to incorporate social media into your professional life. You may struggle to compose posts that are appropriate for work, yet not so bland and safe that they’re boring. Time management may become a challenge, especially when people respond and you’re tempted to reply to them. Or your managers may be reluctant to let you use social media at all because they only associate it with bad things such as hackers and relatives who overshare.

Here are some tips for using social media in a way that will help, and not hinder, your career:

  • Have a conversation with management about social media. Bring up your social media efforts during staff meetings to keep everyone informed about what you’re doing and to open dialogue about policies and best practices. When you do so, Ekimoff, who maintains a popular Twitter handle for CPAs, recommends that you come prepared with a well-thought-out plan to counter any biases against social media and show its positives.
  • Make time management part of your social media strategy. There are many ways to incorporate social media into your work day without having it take over. For example, set aside a five- or 10-minute break to share or retweet something of interest or to post something beneficial to your employer. Resist the temptation to post on your personal accounts. “Most companies won’t set up a billing code for personal social media, so manage your time intelligently and respect company policy,” said Ekimoff.
  • Always remember that you are representing your employer. You must practice self-policing. Things that interest you personally may not be something you should share on a professional account. Ekimoff warned that social media “is a powerful tool, but one tweet, even when deleted, can undercut your message and credibility pretty quickly.” Maintaining your professional appearance may mean ignoring the most recent celebrity scandal that shows up on your news feed.
  • Post on topics you’re passionate about. Most people struggle with how to keep creativity alive on their professional social media accounts. When you’re trying to maintain a professional tone, it can be difficult to make your account fun. Posting about things that interest you can help, as it’s always easier to write about something you’re personally involved in as opposed to something that doesn’t excite you. 
  • Create your own content. Avoid falling into the habit of resharing or retweeting too much from other accounts. While sharing content from different accounts may be easier than composing your own, it won’t really engage other users. 

As you become more comfortable using social media, make sure to incorporate these four strategies:

  1. Guard your reputation. It’s important to reiterate this vital point! It may be beneficial to have separate accounts for personal and professional use. Use the many platforms that are available and decide on which ones you have an easier time maintaining a professional tone.
  2. Watch your language. Take the time to double-check spelling, and use proper grammar to build credibility. It pays to edit comments and posts before clicking the share button.
  3. Monitor your privacy. Learn about privacy settings and set them accordingly. Un-tag yourself from others’ posts if you notice something inappropriate.
  4. Keep work comments positive. Regardless of the platform you frequent, negative comments about work are simply inappropriate and can harm your professional reputation.

For more help or tips, AICPA members can access the Institute’s social media strategy booklet. It can assist you in creating a social media strategy and make a business case for using social media, and also provides an overview of major social media outlets and how to best use them.

Elizabeth Rock is a social media and member engagement specialist for the AICPA.

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