Making Social Media Work For You By Rollo Davies

How to use it to your maximum professional advantage & How to avoid becoming unemployable!

Love it or hate it, over the last 2 decades, social media in all of it’s forms, has become a part of everyday life. From the days of “Friends Reunited” and “MySpace” to the current plethora of platforms, one thing is undeniable, we share huge amounts of personal data, intentionally or otherwise, with the world.

This sharing of information can have disastrous consequences for your career, or paint you in a highly positive light.

It is a fact that employers increasingly look at candidates social media footprints, especially for more senior roles, but it has become a lot more than that.

Social media can also be used to create your own personal “brand” and project and highlight your attributes, achievements and professional image. You can also form hugely valuable professional networks of industry contacts, regardless of whether you have ever met these people in real life or not. You just need to display ideas, views and opinions that align you with those you wish to connect with. There are ways and means to do this and none of this should take more that 30 minutes out of your average day, but will pay massive professional dividends in the future.

Before we look at how to sell yourself, there are a few UNIVERSAL HABITS TO AVOID:….

  • NEVER swear or use bad language in a tweet or post. Regardless of your motivation or annoyance. Any reader will view it as a lack of suitable vocabulary and rightly or wrongly, perceive you as less intelligent.
  • NEVER try to connect or ‘friend’ anyone because you like a profile picture. Well, unless you’re on a dating site obviously. It doesn’t matter how hot you think Ms Dawson, the CEO of a large multi national company is, or how much of a stud Mr Davies, the publisher of the planet’s most popular security industry magazine is, (In your dreams sunshine…….. Ed!) business professionals don’t network based on physical attraction. Comment on how great someone looks in their LinkedIn profile and you will be lambasted into a black hole in space, and rightly so!
  • NEVER spout “extreme” views. Think what ever you like, even share, within your circle of friends in PRIVATE. We don’t, yet anyway, live in a country where your thoughts are monitored, however, publicly express any “unpopular” views, or worst of all, any open dislike or criticism of any race, colour, religion, sect or creed, and you open the gates of Hades. Be absolutely warned, 10,000 posts about your charity work or featuring lovely fluffy puppies will count for nothing, after just one, ill thought out tweet.
  • NEVER post after a few drinks! Even if you are trying to make a decent and valid point, the more you have consumed, the sillier you will sound. Even if you think you are fine. Just don’t. Bottom line: If you wouldn’t drive a car, don’t post to social media. I applied for a job online after a ‘major’ night out a few years ago. It was a fantastic job with a large company, great pay and perfect for my skill set. Waking up with a hangover in the morning, I read my super duper application and it sounded as if it was written by a 6 year old! I wanted to change my name and leave the country.
  • If you find somebody’s views offensive or are particularly annoyed by an individual for any reason, simply “Muting” or “Blocking” that person is far easier and less stressful than engaging. You need to appreciate that sometimes, bothering to argue with someone who is very clearly extremely misguided, is just a waste of time and energy.

But now for the good news. There are a lot of easy things you can do to boost your profile and get noticed by the RIGHT people, on the main social media platforms. Here are our Top Tips:

LinkedIn is THE network for professionals. It provides not only opportunities to expand your network of contacts but also has a huge range of informative posts and articles to increase your security industry knowledge base. There is a small list of people we suggest you follow, in every edition of TPSO magazine, and I strongly recommend you do so. Want to get the best from this network? Here’s our advice:

  • Size may not be everything, but when it comes to your professional network, a larger circle of contacts tends to lend credibility, so grow your NETWORK… For years, LinkedIn stated that you were only supposed to connect with those you had met in the real world. Seeing how restrictive this had become, this was abandoned a few years ago for a much more sensible approach. Join groups that you have a genuine professional interest in. Follow security industry leaders, a good start would be the 50 or so people in the TPSO Key Names in Security list. Follow the top and most highly rated companies. You may find the ACS Pacesetters list helpful. Follow those you want to hear the opinion of. Search for people that do what you do, in the country you work in, and follow those that do jobs you aspire to. Before long you will find that many of the people you have followed, will follow you back as long as……….
  • ………. You have a great profile. Use a decent head and shoulders photo. Doesn’t have to be professional, but it shouldn’t have 20 drunk mates in the background, taken whilst on a beano in Magaluf. The profile should be upbeat and positive. Highlight your achievements. BE HONEST, but remember that this isn’t your CV so feel free to leave out jobs or experience that don’t you any favours or support the professional image you’d like to portray. You will also find that recruiters generally value experience, skills and achievements over qualifications, so highlight everything RELEVENT and don’t worry too much about the GCSE in Biology.
  • Ask former colleagues or bosses for RECOMMENDATIONS, but remember to always reciprocate and if you are for example, a professional security supervisor, looking at advancement to management, a recommendation from your boss in the chip shop you worked in during the summer of 2002 isn’t going to fit with the brand you are creating for yourself, regardless of how great you were at battering haddock. A few quality and appropriate recommendations from decent sources, are better than many that have no real relation to your career path.
  • “LIKE” and “SHARE” POSTS and articles that you are impressed by, or that you found useful. Especially those of some of the bigger LinkedIn players within the security industry. This gets your name out there in the right circles as does…………
  • ………. Making positive and intelligent COMMENTS on the posts and articles that you have found interesting, entertaining or informative. Just please don’t comment for the sake of it. A few honest and thoughtful responses to the posts of others, will be far better received that dozens and dozens of “I agree” or “How true” comments.
  • If you have read an article that was of particular interest to you, feel free to thank the poster and offer any positive feedback, if you are qualified to do so. It probably isn’t wise to point out that the Global Head of Cyber Security for a large multi national company, missed something vital out in a long piece, if you are still a security officer at a warehouse…. unless you are 100% certain of your knowledge. In which case go for it. But be super polite! Impress them. Do not annoy them. If in doubt, just don’t touch the keyboard!
  • And finally: Unless you are a film star, or in a witness protection program, DO NOT set your preferences to block contact requests “unless they know your email address”! LinkedIn is not a huge cauldron of spam and phishing attempts so you will gain little in security terms, but you will miss connecting with recruiters and professionals that can help you, and it’s annoying, so just don’t.
  • Basic psychology states that people tend to like the people that openly like them, so make supportive and encouraging comments on the posts of your peers and you will rapidly find these people commenting on, liking and sharing your work.

Twitter is THE news and views platform and is also an active home to some of the top names in the global security industry. Although the younger generation tend to be swerving Twitter these days, the movers and shakers in the industry are still joining on mass so this needs to be a major weapon in your brand creation armoury.

It is sadly, also the home to many “bots”, sources of false or misleading information, employed by nation states, political parties and numerous interest groups with specific agendas, so don’t get sucked in.

Here are my tips to rapidly becoming a respected security industry micro (1000+ followers) influencer.

  • Have a quality profile. Yet again, use a decent head & shoulders photo. Use every available character to promote who you are, as searches look for terms in the profile description, so be descriptive. “Security Professional” is not going to gain as much attention as “City of London based, blue chip physical security professional. Security Institute member, currently studying for a level 4 qualification in risk management.” If you have any doubts as to whether or not your employer monitors your Twitter feed, presume they do, so do not forget to add the Twitter disclaimer of “All Tweets Are Solely My Own” and “Likes = bookmarks not endorsements”, just in case you say, or even seem to support something, that may not be in line with your employers company policy. It probably won’t save you if you have gone totally postal, but it may help, a bit, possibly.
  • Be positive. This is no silly point. Study Twitter for any length of time and you will find that the moaning, miserable types attract other moaning, miserable types, generally angry with the world because it is certainly not their fault that they have failed in their career or can’t get a girl or boyfriend. Professional types are positive. If you don’t feel it, fake it until you do! Professionals in the security industry are attracted to positivity because it reeks of success and achievement. You will also quickly find that all of the real players and influencers in the security industry are genuinely very nice people. I kid you not. You will find so many real industry stars ready to help you and give you good advice, but you need to display the positive attitude! BE: Warm, Enthusiastic, Supportive, Keen, Intelligent, Agreeable, Humble. AVOID: Argumentative, Arrogant, Opinionated, Insulting, Discouraging……
  • Follow the key security industry people and top companies. Look at the all those that follow the people and organisations you are interested in and follow all of those that resonate with you. Repeat this and before long you will have a substantial list of followers. If you hit the maximum Twitter follow limit, just go back 4 weeks into the list of people you follow, and unfollow anyone that has not followed you until you are able to continue. Don’t go off track and WATCH OUT FOR BOTS! Don’t follow accounts with no descriptions, only a few followers and with anything less than a professional profile. BOTS will follow you however so be prepared to lose a few followers whenever Twitter does a purge on “suspect” accounts. Within a month it is quite possible to gain a following of 1000+, just bear in mind that obtaining valid followers gets harder as you progress.
  • DO NOT automatically follow back everyone that follows you. Some may be bots. Some may be con artists. Some may just be so far from your desired network as to dilute and devalue you professional brand. Check each profile before you accept anyone.
  • Occasionally do a Twitter search OF YOUR OWN NAME. Why may you ask? Well as you grow in followers and your online profile expands, you will unfortunately attract criminals who will duplicate your account, pretending to be you, in order to con the unsuspecting in a myriad of ways. It is very, very freaky and immensely unpleasant but, Twitter are pretty good at suspending and then deleting these malicious “clone accounts”, just ensure you check from time to to time and let Twitter know if you find any, via the reporting system on the profile page of these ‘shady’ accounts. If you think I’m Joking, I have had 7 so far this year, all using my photo, full name, description and slight variations of my Twitter @handle!
  • Create quality content. No need to become a journalist. Just Tweet news and info relevant to your target readership. Where to get this info? Retweeting news that you find on Twitter is fine but for the little extra edge, may I introduce you to a service such as “Google Alerts”.
  • Just Tweet! Been somewhere interesting? Take photos and tweet them with a comment. Had a great idea? Run it up the Twitter flagpole and see who salutes! Want to publicly thank someone or company for something? Twitter is your tool. Just remember, where you can, try to include a photo, graphic or even one of the Twitter stock GIFs. It simply increases views of your post. We all love pictures after all!

Facebook has been around for a long time, in social media terms, so I’m not going to go into great detail about the pros and cons. Be aware that this is the platform that normally gives employers the grounds to reject applicants, fire existing employees and helps the Police catch the less intelligent segment of the criminal fraternity.

Think about this:

  • It is a bit of an urban myth that prospective employers will look at your Facebook page and reject you because of a few photos of you being a “bit merry” in a bar in San Antonio. Everyone is allowed to be a bit silly on holiday. Employers these days tend to recognise this. Facebook is generally the platform for photo sharing with friends and family so if you’re posting stuff that you want restricted to a certain closed group, then please look at and alter, your “Privacy Settings”, then ensure all posts are set for “Friends Only” viewing.
  • Check what your friends may have “tagged” you in. You may have the tightest security and have MI5 levels of caution on your account, but if your mate Dave has tagged you in a photo, viewable by anyone, involving 5g of Colombian marching dust, three prostitutes and a goat, you are not going to get the amazing job in the City that you had your hopes on. Probably.
  • Join security related groups and pages. You have the chance to interact with like minded professionals in a wide range of fields. You can be robust with your views, and feel free to add constructive criticism to the posts of others but, in the words of Jack Nicholson, “BE POLITE!” I have reason to believe that there is a Professional Security Officer Magazine Facebook page. Just saying.

Instagram seems to have a small following within the security industry. As an individual security professional, unless you have some fantastic pictures of yourself pouting in a mirror, I really wouldn’t bother. (But of course the TPSO magazine Instagram Page is fabulous! Obviously……….. Ed!)

To be honest, that’s about all we could really recommend.

Trends and fashions come and go but LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook seem to endure so I’d make these the basis of your “online professional branding” campaign.

In summary:

Be professional online. Be the person you want to be seen as.

Be respectful and positive.

Develop a network of quality industry contacts.

Showcase your skills and advanced knowledge.

But remember, the brand, image and contacts you develop online are just a part of the machine you will need to drive your career. CPD and advanced training are the others. Actively work on all of these areas and the sky is the limit.

See you online:

Rollo Davies

Rollo Davies