Protect Your Personal Professional Brand

Students need to be aware that future recruiters would leverage social media to learn more about them, and that they should immediately ensure their Facebook accounts were set to private. After all, did they really want their job application rejected because the recruiter was able to see that they behaved inappropriately on Spring Break?

LinkedIn LogosIn early January, I was invited by my alma mater to speak to a group of students and their alumni mentors about building a personal brand. In the presentation, I spoke specifically about how students needed to be aware that future recruiters would leverage social media to learn more about them, and that they should immediately ensure their Facebook accounts were set to private. After all, did they really want their job application rejected because the recruiter was able to see that they behaved inappropriately on Spring Break?

One of the other major social media sites I discussed was LinkedIn – and why they should care about how their professional brand is conveyed to colleagues, employers and future employers. But it seems that lesson is lost on many professionals, as demonstrated by recent commentary on LinkedIn’s news feed with regards to posts by Candice Galek, CEO and founder of Bikini Luxe.

To give Ms. Galek credit, her posts leverage LinkedIn’s social media tools for promoting one’s business or service. In a collection of updates/articles, Ms. Galek posts a somewhat risqué image of a model in a bikini and asks readers the question “Is This Appropriate for LinkedIn?”

Not surprisingly, the original post scored more than 500 comments, both pro and con. But what disturbed me the most was how inappropriate many of the comments were – and NOT from an anonymous user name.

Since LinkedIn requires you to be logged in to comment, any post you make clearly designates who you are, your title and the company that you represent.

I could not believe how immature and unprofessional many of the comments were – and how it altered my view of those who made them.

After reading about two dozen of the more disgusting comments, I sadly realized that our society has not really evolved one iota. But more importantly, those who posted lewd and sexist commentary have forever tarnished their professional brand images. And that’s not just my opinion.

As Ms. Galek herself reported, one senior vice president of business development sent her a LinkedIn mail advising her that one of his prospects had taken note of his bikini post commentary and advised him that he was no longer going to pursue their biz dev conversation.

Since Bikini Luxe is a legitimate business, they have every right to use the media channels at their disposal to further their communications objectives. And, as surprising as it was to see a scantily clad model in my LinkedIn newsfeed, Ms. Galek is entitled to use business-appropriate content to engage prospects (she is, after all, in the swimwear business).

But I might suggest that business professionals think twice before being lured into making a comment (even if you’re thinking it, do you really want your superiors, peers, employees, clients and future employers to know your thoughts?). Or should I just chalk it up to “boys will be boys?”