What was once thought to be a passing trend to help college students to connect more than a decade ago has blossomed into a way of life for people of all ages. Nowadays, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other platforms are used for a variety of reasons, though most activity can be boiled down to one purpose: building a brand. Whether it’s personal, work-related or educational, we use social media to communicate what we as individuals, companies, schools or other groups stand for. But be warned: before offering academic slots, athletic scholarships, or hiring employees, institutions do their social media due diligence to determine who exactly it is they’re bringing on board. Read on to learn the dos and don’ts of managing your social media image.
Follow universities and teams that you’re interested in, as well as your role models. Social media can be a great way to connect with prospective colleges by offering admissions officers and coaches an opportunity to get to know you separate from your application, test scores and highlight reel. Heads up: pay close attention to the remaining advice to make sure your digital brand is appropriate and opens doors rather than closing them.
DO: Highlight Your Hard Work
Feel free to post short videos of a footwork drill you put yourself through in your backyard, footage of a fantastic free kick or anything else that shows your stuff! You work hard, and your social media profiles should communicate that. Be sure to strike a balance between confident and braggy, though, by including your other interests and celebrations of others’ accomplishments in your feed, as well.
DON’T: Emotionally Post
If you’re fresh off a bad loss, a fight with a loved one or a bad grade, step away from the technology. While writing can be a powerful coping and restorative tool, all emotionally-charged writing should be kept private. Give yourself ample time (think days or even weeks) to cool off before adding anything to your digital footprint. Remember, you can literally never take back the things you post. Someone who’s evaluating your character later on might not appreciate your emotional rant.
DO: Be a Positive Poster
Celebrate your team’s victories, give props to opponents and shout-out your friends’ achievements. It’s good form and shows that you are a supportive teammate and a class act.
DON’T: Post Anything You Wouldn’t Want Grandma to See
Foolish posts, vulgar posts, illegal posts – these have all cost athletes their dreams. One athlete’s “funny” YouTube video included trespassing, costing him his Division I college scholarship. Images of marijuana, tweets with swear words, even questionable quotes from songs or movies have led coaches to cross a name off a list. If you’d be embarrassed for your Grandma to see or read what you’re considering posting, it shouldn’t be posted.
DON’T: Think You’re Immune Because You’re Set to Private
Privacy settings are a wonderful tool, but they are not infallible. There are tools to get around “private” profiles and screenshots tend to get circulated quickly. Even if you trust everyone with access to your profile, always err on the side of caution. No amount of “likes” is worth losing your dream.
DO: Think. Think Again. Then Post.
Before posting, ask yourself three questions: Is this necessary? Is this kind? Is this appropriate? Always consider how others – especially those who don’t know you – may interpret your idea. With screenshots, even a quickly-deleted post can follow you and negatively impact your future. If you’re not sure how something would be received, don’t post it.
Technology provides fantastic tools and opportunities to showcase your talents and hard work to the world. Save yourself from becoming the next cautionary tale of social media gone wrong by following these simple rules. They’ll ensure well thought-out, responsible posts that highlight your attributes and promote your personal brand to the world.
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Katie Giberson is an educator, a coach, and a former professional athlete whose own college soccer journey provides valuable perspective when advising clients in her role as CBW Soccer Elite's Head of Recruiting. You can reach her at email@example.com.