How to make a professional profile: a guide to reputation management
From the meal you whipped up last night to your dog's Instagram account – these days, everything has a place online. So it makes sense that your career should have a presence too. Social media is a powerful tool and it can be used for so much more than cat videos and staying connected with friends. Creating an online professional profile is a simple but effective way to get your name out there in your industry.
Building your presence online can help you to extend your network of contacts, develop a reputation that precedes you and open the door to new opportunities you wouldn't have heard about otherwise. Then, when you're on the hunt for your next role, the world's your oyster.
So, where do you start? In this guide, we'll take you through everything from how to make a professional profile and how to use social media for business to online reputation management and ways to get yourself noticed.
Before you begin
The internet is a big place. To make it work for you, you need to cut through the noise and be noticed for the right reasons. How? By being specific with your career and personal goals. It might be tempting to dive straight in, but first, take a moment to think about your professional brand. Be clear about who you are, what you have to offer and where you want to build your online reputation.
Find your USP
Your USP (unique selling point) is the thing that makes you different from the next person applying for the same role as you. It's what makes you stand out from the crowd, and what gives your business profile the edge when it comes to future potential employers.
To work out what yours is, think about what you want to be known for, what you've already achieved, and what your goals are for your career. Then, make sure your online image fits. For example, if you want to be seen as an innovator, talk about the changes you've made in your current role. If you'd rather be seen as a money generator, talk up your successes in building revenue.
Do your research
Take a look at how others in your industry present themselves online. Start by Googling someone you admire and pay particular attention to where they promote themselves. Do they post on a personal blog? Do they publish articles to online journals? Are they active on Twitter? This will give you a good idea of where you should start and which platforms you can best use to your advantage.
As well as where, look at how they’re promoting themselves online. Which achievements do they include in their bio? What do their posts tend to focus on? Which articles do they share? What sort of language do they use? Understanding the different options out there will help you shape your own brand and online presence.
Google your name
Most recruiters will Google you to figure out whether or not you're a suitable candidate, so it pays to know what they're likely to see. Type your own name into the search bar and go through the results, thinking about how this would look to an employer or industry professional. If you don't like what you find, now's the time to change it.
First of all, you can update the settings on your personal social media profiles to make sure only your friends can see your posts. Then, if you see something you think could damage your personal brand reputation, contact the relevant website and ask for it to be taken down. If you don’t get a response, try mentioning the Data Protection Act to hurry the process along.
Creating your profile
Now you've cleared up your social media history and decided how you want to present yourself, you can start building your professional profile. These days online networking is just as important as networking face to face, so presentation is key.
Choose a handle
It’s a good idea to keep your handle, aka your username, the same across all platforms. If you can, just use your first and last name, but if not, the less numbers and extra letters you add, the better. Bonus points if it ties into your professional email address.
What you say and share on your professional and personal social media accounts will (and should!) be entirely different, so it's important to maintain a divide between the two. Your business handle should differ from the one you use for personal accounts to avoid any crossover. This might mean that you have to tweak your title for some existing accounts, but, in the long run, it means any weekend or holiday photos are kept under wraps.
Write your bio
Think of your bio as your online elevator pitch. You have your future employer's attention for 30 seconds – how do you make the most of it? Aim to give a general overview of what you're about, while keeping it short and snappy. As a guideline, your name, current job title and a recent career achievement makes a good summary. If you're in the market for a new role, put a bit about your future goals in too so recruiters know what you're interested in hearing about.
Build your public image
If you’re using multiple platforms, keep your brand consistent across all of them. Use a similar bio and the same language throughout. This will give the impression that you're organised and concise, and that you know your business. Once you start posting, you can link up accounts and share your posts across them all – this is a quick way to get your content out there and build your business reputation.
First impressions count, so the photos you choose matter! If you don’t have a professional head shot, get one taken. The type of image that'll work best will differ from industry to industry. If you’re a creative, you can get away with a more artistic shot, whereas if you work in finance, your photo should look professional and presentable.
Follow, follow, follow
Now you've set up your business profile, it’s time to figure out how to start networking online. Start by going through your existing contacts and following them. Then, look at who they’re following to see if any of them seem like the right kind of people to network with. Spotted someone who ticks the boxes? Give them a follow. Seek out industry leaders, up-and-comers and relevant publications and follow them too. Professional networking via social media is a great way to reach people you might not be likely to meet in person, and by getting yourself out there, you’ll soon find your own followers racking up.
Stay up to date
Social media is a vital way to sell yourself. If you’ve recently met a career goal, this is the place to shout about it. Update your profile regularly (ideally monthly) with any new achievements, awards and skills you've picked up. Not only will this keep your content fresh, it also shows recruiters and industry professionals that your head is in the game, you mean business and your career is on a skyward trajectory.
What to share on your professional profile
Your professional brand isn't a static thing – it's something that grows and changes as you go through your career. As you start out, you might focus on sharing articles or ideas you find inspiring, then as you gather experience, you'll probably find that you have a lot of interesting original ideas that you want to write up and post.
Sharing content with your followers encourages interaction, helps you to make new contacts and shows you're knowledgeable about your industry. Best of all, it doesn't have to take up too much time. Simply dedicate a couple of minutes a day to scrolling through your feeds and liking or re-sharing posts that pique your interest. It's an easy way to become part of the ongoing conversation.
What to post
The type of content you post will depend on your industry, the current news in the sector, and what's important to you and your contacts. It doesn’t have to be strictly business related. While it should be professional, it’s fine to show some personality – in fact, it’ll probably set you apart from the crowd. Don’t be afraid to show some humour or personal insight into a current event. It’s a great way to break the ice with new followers and start up a discussion.
Here are a few guidelines to stick to in order to get the most out of your posts:
1. Make it relevant. People are following you because they're interested in your specific industry or angle, so don't just post any old thing. Think about how the article you're sharing relates to your brand and add a comment if it needs to be explained.
2. Get personal. Talked to a contact about an article you read? Share it. Seen a post that's relevant to something a colleague is working on? Tag them. It’s all about getting out there and broadening your network.
3. Proofread, then proofread again. Spelling mistakes can undermine what you're saying, even if the content is powerful. Run it through a spellchecker before you post, just to be safe.
What not to post
Although social media can be a huge benefit to your career, it doesn't come without its share of risk. Beyond the obvious need to avoid posting any confidential information from your current employer, there are some guidelines that'll help you avoid tarnishing your business reputation:
1. Don't complain about your job. Moaning about named employers isn't going to win you any brownie points – with the contacts you made there, or anyone else.
2. Make sure everything you post is above board. Lying is never a good look, and telling porkies on your profile – where people can easily fact-check what you say – is even worse. Stick to the truth so no worrying inconsistencies come up when you're under the microscope.
3. Avoid anything that could be viewed as discriminatory. The Equality Act is there to protect people in the workplace based on the following characteristics:
- Gender reassignment
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
Posting anything that could be viewed as discriminatory – especially in your professional circle – will be a big red flag for anyone who might've been thinking about hiring you.
Want to make a name for yourself as a major player in your industry? It’s all about getting coverage. There are plenty of ways you can get yourself out there, from growing your followers on online platforms to starting up a blog and even getting in touch with a PR agency to see how they can help.
Create a blog
A personal blog is a great place to post your own views on what’s happening in your industry and can be a handy tool when it comes to social network marketing. It takes a little more upkeep than simply posting a tweet, but over time and with the right outreach, it can help you become a voice of authority in your sector.
First, decide on the topic of your blog. Lining this up with your key USP and sector will keep your online presence consistent. Then brainstorm some ideas and craft and post regular articles. Back up your views with links to sites that already have authority – this will give your voice more meaning.
You can promote your blog by reading and following others – most blog creation sites such as WordPress have functions that make this easy. Each time you upload a new post, share it via social media so your followers know where to find you.
Make yourself newsworthy
This might be easier said than done, but it’s not as tricky as it sounds. The way you go about it will depend on the industry you work in. Creative industries like fashion and design tend to have plenty of different awards each year that you could enter. An accolade beside your name and a story printed about your win in a trade publication will get you seen.
If your sector doesn’t tend to focus on awards, think outside the box. Take a look at what online publications are talking about to see if you can contribute. Offering up a quote with your name attached is a simple but effective way to start getting yourself seen as an expert.
Medium-sized businesses will likely have a marketing team that handles external publicity for the company. Speak to your contact in the department to see what output they’re working on. If you think your role is relevant, offer up a quote to go in a press release.
Alternatively, you can make your own news. If you’ve achieved record-breaking sales for your company, reach out to a trade journal who might want to write about it. Both offline and print publications are usually in need of new pitches to fill up column space right before print or publication day, so research which ones are relevant to your business and send them your pitch. Be sure they include, your name, job title and handle when they publish so people can find you and keep up to date with your journey.
Pay a PR agency
If you're wondering how to become well known in your community and you're willing to pay, hiring a PR agency could be the answer. This option isn’t for everyone and can be pricey, but an agency will be able to create and manage your profile, and secure you some publicity opportunities, without much leg work needed from you. This would be particularly valuable if you work in a sector that relies on online presence, for example marketing or media. Research agencies that have worked in your sector already and schedule an introductory meeting to see if you gel.
Take it offline
Don't forget about your offline networking too. Getting out to industry events is just as important as gaining a new follower. Have some business cards printed with your email and social handles, and the next time you’re at an industry event, hand them out. Afterwards, give the new contacts you’ve met a follow too. It's polite, and it'll open up your reach even further.
Another way to build a name for yourself is to speak at industry events. Start small and see if your next trade event has a five-minute speaking slot you can fill. This will help build your confidence and show you where you can offer insight so, eventually, you can speak for longer, get your name higher on the bill and become a known face in the industry.
Online reputation management
Now you're set up and posting regularly, it's about maintaining an active presence online and continuing to build your reputation. Naturally, you should be updating your profiles whenever you reach a new milestone in your career, but you should ideally update at least once a month. By keeping your profiles active, you’re showing possible recruiters that you’re invested in your career.
Public vs private
Most social media platforms provide you with the option to either share your posts publicly, or to restrict access to a selected group. It's sensible to take some precautions online, but there are pros and cons to keeping your profile under wraps.
Maintaining a personal/professional divide
You’ll still want to keep your personal social media accounts, and there’s no reason why you can’t. However, it's important to keep a strong dividing line between your personal and professional profiles – for more than one reason. First of all, the content you post will be different. Secondly, and importantly, it makes it harder for your professional contacts to find your personal accounts.
A lot of people tend to choose one username and stick to it, and to use the same email address for everything. This means that, with a quick Google, recruiters can find everything from your latest eBay purchase to your most recent personal tweets. Using different email addresses and usernames for work and play means recruiters will only find other professional profiles when they search those details.
With some of your personal profiles, you're still searchable by name. It’s a good idea to check your settings and restrict access so only friends can see your posts. You should be aware that, although you can control who views your page, strangers can still see posts you make to other feeds, so be wary about what you're sharing on family and friends' pages.
You can also make your professional pages private, if you choose, so you can vet the people viewing your profile first-hand. But there are downsides to doing this. It's harder to get your name out there if your profile is behind a wall, and some people might turn away if they have to request first, so you could be losing valuable connections without knowing it.
Key tips for creating an online business profile
Here are our ten key takeaways for how to create and manage an online business profile:
1. Think of your USP and keep it consistent across all platforms.
2. Check what a Google search brings up before you begin and remove anything you wouldn't want a recruiter to see.
3. Follow others in your industry to see how it’s done and find out which platforms pay off.
4. Use a sensible, professional handle and keep your brand clean across all sites.
5. Shout about your achievements – show recruiters you mean business!
6. Follow, share and reblog others to gain online connections.
7. Think about how a blog or public speaking opportunity could help you create an authoritative presence.
8. Network offline too (but always share your social contact).
9. Update your profile and post regularly to show you’re passionate about your career.
10. Remember to keep all personal and professional accounts separate.
Plenty of recruiters and business now post on social media when they have an opening, so be sure to follow companies you have an interest in. It also allows you to be found by head hunters and recruiters, once you’ve built your following.