Keeping It Professional Online

How to put your best virtual foot forward.


Now that social media penetrates virtually every aspect of our lives, “it’s fair to say we’re juggling two business agendas,” writes strategic innovation consultant and futurist Scott Steinberg. “Real and virtual.”

In his new book The Business Etiquette Bible: Modern and High-Tech Rules, Tips, and Training for Working Professionals, Steinberg shares best practices for keeping it as professional online as you do in the office.

Because we’re constantly carrying our work with us in our pockets, this juggling act is becoming increasingly difficult. “We’re not only overwhelmed by the wealth of media options suddenly available to us on our mobile devices, web browsers, and through broadband connections,” he writes, but “we’re increasingly struggling to comfortably incorporate them into our careers and professional interactions.”

But if used properly, social networks can enhance our career. Here a few of Steinberg’s quick tips for putting your most professional foot forward online and using social networking to your advantage:

1. Use different profiles or groups of contacts when posting material online. “When you have these disparate groups lumped together into one giant ‘friends’ list,” Steinberg writes, “it’s all too easy to accidentally post inappropriate, incorrect, or ill-advised messages or updates where they can be seen by the wrong audience, to your detriment.”

2. Keep your profiles up to date. “Make certain that your professional history, as viewed in resumes and online profiles, is consistent,” Steinberg suggests. “Recruiters will immediately be suspicious of any applicant where obvious discrepancies exist, especially where they may suggest padding or false statements.”

3. Promote others’ success in addition to your own. “Be sure to promote others more than yourself,” Steinberg suggests. “Do so, and you’ll make friends, gain more followers, and ultimately invite others to wish to respond in kind.”

4. Follow those who inspire you. “Observe and follow those with whom you’d like to do business,” Steinberg says. “Many times, they’ll ask questions or request suggestions or input — at these times, you might consider crafting appropriate (i.e. not overly self-promotional) responses, tweets, posts, etc. that can help them meet these needs while creating win-win scenarios with positive outcomes for you as well.”

5. When in doubt, err on the side of caution. “Any material you’d think twice about mentioning or sharing at the office shouldn’t be shared online, for the sake of safety or propriety,” Steinberg writes. “You can never be too careful.”

Casey Gale

Casey Gale is associate editor of Convene.