Professional Image and Social Media Etiquette Recap

The Haitian Professionals of Philadelphia (HPP) hosts professional development workshops and networking events designed with your career and professional development in mind. On Thursday, January 16, 2020, HPP hosted a workshop on Professional Image and Social Media Etiquette that was open to members and the general public. HPP is very grateful to our guest speaker Katherine Johnston from EDSI/PACareerLink for her wonderful presentation on Professional Image and Social Media Etiquette. In this seminar/workshop, she shared some tips on how to:

  • Use social media for building a professional image;

  • Use social media for managing your online reputation;

  • Use social media for job searching; and

  • Use proper etiquette on social media.

Social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and Twitter are the most popular platforms in the United States (Pew Research 2019). Social media allows you to expand your social footprint beyond the location where you are living and/or working. People use social media for personal and business reasons. As an example of this, people use social media to develop new contacts, to reconnect with old contacts, and to stay in touch with family, friends, coworkers, and business contacts. Businesses and other employers use social media to advertise/market their goods and services and to recruit employees and/or clients. Community and interest groups use it to promote their respective causes and to recruit volunteers and/or funders. Workers use it to connect and communicate with employers, to display their skills and abilities, and to network. When you, as a career person, use social media, remember the following tips for creating and maintaining a professional image.

Using social media for building a professional image

Unless your personal brand is your business, keep separate business and personal accounts. If your job requires you to maintain a social media account with your name on it, don’t use it to talk about your personal exploits, or to share photos of your children and/or pet(s). If the handles of your personal and business accounts are similar, clearly indicate which account is which in the about section. To soften the blow of questionable content, attach a disclaimer, such as “All views expressed are my own,” to your personal Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Sharing the right content is important to your professional image. What you post matters as much as where you post it. Don’t post anything that might cause an employer to question your judgement, maturity, integrity, or collegiality. Don’t post anything without first proofreading it for grammar and spelling mistakes. Before you share your next post, consider using the following infographic as reference (MoneyCrashers 2018).

1. Courtesy of HootSuite

Using social media to manage your online reputation

It’s common practice for employers and educational institutions to vet candidates’ social media activity before granting an interview or accepting an application. Review your accounts for any questionable activity/associations, so that you don’t jeopardize your chances. Ramp up the privacy settings on your personal accounts so your posts aren’t visible to non-contacts. Restrict tagging to prevent being tagged with questionable content. If already tagged, remove and un-tag morally, ethically, or legally questionable photos. Find and delete any negative or disparaging comments that you’ve made or contents that you’ve liked. Examples of these include questionable photos/videos, profanity, slang or discriminatory comments, discussions about using alcohol or drugs, inappropriate comments from friends or those disparaging employers or colleagues, etc. Search for yourself on Google and on each social media platform to verify that you’ve addressed any questionable content. Make sure your LinkedIn profile has an updated resume and begin engaging with relevant professional groups. Monitor your online and social media presence monthly to ensure a favorable online reputation.

Using social media for job searching

Social media is a great leveraging tool when job searching. The top three platforms that employers use to recruit are LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. One way to use social media in your job search is to let your connections know that you are looking. Your social media connections may be able to connect you to opportunities that are not currently posted. Another way is to create a profile on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the platform of choice for employers and recruiters looking to hire career minded people. To have success with LinkedIn, ensure that your LinkedIn profile is complete and dynamic. Think like a recruiter when creating your profile. Figure out what skills and experience employers are looking for in order to make your profile content relevant. Show that you are social by commenting on status updates, by sharing information, by giving advice, by seeking advice, by endorsing your connections’ skills, by having your connections endorse your skills, and by logging in frequently. Twitter can help you in your job search by increasing your chance of getting a position through referrals. Use Twitter to find and follow the people who are influencers in your industry. Be sure to join in on their Twitter conversations to create exposure for yourself. Use hashtags such as #careerchat or #jobhuntchat to join general job hunt conversations in search of leads. Follow popular hashtags such as #Hiring, #NowHiring, #Resume, #JobOpening, #JobSearch, and #TweetMyJobs for list of opportunities on Twitter (Forbes 2018). Facebook can help you in your job search through its Facebook Lists and Facebook Group features. Use Facebook lists or groups to expand your professional contacts without sharing your personal/familial posts. To prevent the accidental sharing of your personal/familial posts, set custom privacy settings. Having a personal website that display your portfolio of achievements and that is linked to your social media accounts is another smart way to accelerate your job search on social media.

Using proper etiquette on social media

In order to build and maintain your personal brand on social media, there are a number of social media etiquette guidelines that you have to follow. What follows is a few of the most important ones.

Don’t post while impaired (your comments are never deleted).

When you’re impaired, i.e. lack of sleep, jet lag, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you’re more likely to break the rules of social media etiquette. Do not engage online until you’ve sobered up. Any comments, responses, likes, dislikes, rants, pictures and hashtags you post are, for better or worse, forever. If you have any doubt about whether or not to post something, don’t do it. Profanity as well as spelling, grammatical and factual accuracy fall into this category, too.

Think before tagging.

If you’ve got a shot of someone you want to upload, and you’re not trying to embarrass them, reach out to see if they mind you tagging them. Most people appreciate the chance to avoid having their reputation damaged or looking foolish. It should also be noted that personal photos (partying/drinking, vacation in a bikini) are probably best left out of business-related feeds.

Avoid Over-Sharing.

Get a separate personal account for things discussed outside the realm of your business or professional content. Don’t flood people with updates, be it through Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. If you must flood your timeline for whatever reason, warn your connections in advance.

Don’t take everything personally or call people out.

If you feel you’ve been slighted on social media by someone you know well in real life, send them an actual email to ask. If they’re a real friend, they will explain, and hopefully a needless Facebook/Twitter war can be avoided. To the degree possible, avoid calling people out, vaguely or directly, on social media. Nothing except hurt feelings, damaged reputation and/or upset readers will come out it. There are times when it can’t be avoided, such as when the offender is non-responsive, defiant, or otherwise causing real damage to your reputation. However, if you do have a choice, talk to that person privately, respond with a factual response, or just let it go. Readers really don’t want to hear or read about most people’s dirty laundry.

Don’t misrepresent yourself.

Dishonesty can have serious personal and professional consequences, even on social media. It might feel easy to misrepresent yourself when you’re hiding behind a screen, but even a seemingly innocent embellishment on your LinkedIn profile, such as inventing a more impressive title at a previous job, could get you canned. Using social media to take credit for the achievements of your coworkers is also a no-no.

Act the way you’d want to be treated.

If you care about people crediting you, credit other people. If you care about being polite and responding to people on Twitter, respond politely to them. If you want people to endorse your skills on LinkedIn, endorse their skills first. If you want to have people leave insightful comments (and not just promotions) on Facebook, do the same for them. Be the example you’d like others to follow. If you put positive, responsible energy out on all of your accounts, you’re more likely to get it back.


  1. Pew Research 2019. Perrin, Andrew & Anderson, Monica. "Share of U.S. adults using social media, including Facebook, is mostly unchanged since 2018." Last modified April 2019.

  2. Money Crashers 2018. Martucci, Brian. “10 Social Media Etiquette Tips for Personal & Business Accounts.” Last modified December 2018.

  3. Forbes 2018. Arnold, Andrew. “6 Ways to Leverage Your Social Network for Job Hunting.” Last modified April 2018.

  4. Design Sponge 2013. Grace Bonney. “Modern Etiquette: Social Media Do’s & Don’ts.” Last modified February 2013.

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