Facebook. Twitter. Pinterest. LinkedIn. If you participate in social media, you likely have at least one of those channels to maintain. All those posts, photos, videos and other random bits of media you've gathered can help you—or hurt you—when you're looking for work as a massage therapist. In addition to conducting traditional background checks, many employers routinely screen potential hires using social media.
"Employers use Google Search, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to check out how a prospective employee represents him- or herself in the public eye," said Taylor Lamont, the national director of massage therapy programs for the Steiner Education Group, which operates 32 schools for spa professionals nationwide. "Even more information may be accessed through hashtag searches within some of these sites."
Whether you consider yourself a social media expert or you've just started your first page, it pays to review your online presence and make sure the virtual you looks just as professional as the real you. Your future boss could be watching.
Personal vs. Professional
Most social media sites, including Facebook, offer the option of creating both personal and business pages. Even if you usually work as an independent contractor and do not have a separate name for your business, creating a separate profile for your massage therapy services can make it easier to maintain a professional image.
"Employers are looking for personal social media management, i.e., personal pages restricted from public use and public pages [that] represent the applicant professionally," said Lamont.
If you create a page for your business, remember to:
• Interact. If someone leaves a comment, thank the person. Answer questions from potential clients. Post news and information relevant to the wellness industry and to your business.
• Make it easy to contact you. Include your professional contact information, such as business phone number and website.
• Keep your personal page professional, too. "We often advise students [to] create business profiles separate from their personal profiles," said Aaron Gunn, massage program director at the Atlanta School of Massage in Atlanta, Georgia. "However, it is still important to remember that anything you post online will be a reflection of you both personally and professionally."
Look Who's Watching
Take a minute to look over your list of Facebook friends, or the people who are following your boards on Pinterest. It's probably an interesting mix, a blend of folks who would never have much contact with each other in real life: co-workers, spouses, distant relatives, and those people who are beating you at Candy Crush Saga. Now that you have the whole gang on-screen in front of you, take a few steps to ensure they won't make you look bad:
• Don't let other people post to your page without your approval. Set the privacy controls so that you have to approve posts from others. Make sure people aren't allowed to tag you in photos without your approval.
• Set up comment notifications so you can quickly review or delete new comments on your posts. Most social media sites can be set to send you an email or a text message every time you get a new comment.
• Know how to de-friend, unfollow or block people. Keeping your online network free from problematic connections will help create a more professional online profile.
Post with Composure
When people get together, they have different opinions—lots of them. Social media sites are no different. One person says a movie is great, while another person says it isn't worth your Redbox dollar. Someone posts a video of a politician saying something negative, someone else uses it as a platform to push their own agenda. Debate is good; all-out comment war, not so much. Before you click the Post button, remember:
• Check your privacy controls. Many sites, including Facebook, have customizable privacy controls that let you change, with each post, who can see what you post. Be picky about what you make public—and keep the rest to friends only. "Any information that is publicly posted is not only a reflection on that individual, but also on our institution should we employ them," said Gunn. "Always think before you post."
• Know how to edit—and delete—both your own posts and comments and those of others. Even though once something is posted, it is out there, deleting after the fact can limit how many eyes see it. If you regret a post, delete it.
• Don't post profanity, nudity, negativity or anything that breaches client confidentiality. That goes for photos, too. Don't share images "displaying lack of clothing or an inebriated state," Lamont advised, "or pictures showing [your] profession in a negative light."
• Keep sensitive opinions out of public view. If you wouldn't chat about it in actual public, it's probably best to keep it out of virtual public. Topics to avoid in your posts and comments might include politics, religion, issues that draw heated debate, family drama, negativity directed toward people or businesses, and disparaging stories about current, past or potential employers. "Make posts available where you are represented as happy, healthy, active and involved," Lamont said.
Share the Real You
Maintaining a professional image online does not have to equal boring profile pages. Dina Casso, club manager at the Midtown Athletic Club in Atlanta, recommends candidates post to social media about "things that they are passionate about—hobbies, interests, charitable causes—that show zest, initiative and optimism."
"You're entering an incredible career with strong roots in professionalism and representation," said Lamont. "Employers, and those you network with, will be looking for those qualities in you. Whether posted for a few minutes or forever, what we post and represent becomes our virtual business card."