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This content is taken from the University of Leeds & Institute of Coding's online course, Create a Professional Online Presence. Join the course to learn more.

Ensuring a positive online presence

Once you’ve got your network, it’s important to nurture and maintain it.

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Remember that while an online professional presence can bring enormous benefits, you need to be aware of the risks of social media and how your engagements online appear to others.

The internet can sometimes be a negative, argumentative and unfriendly place, with strangers seeking out confrontation with individuals and companies alike. The relative anonymity of online interactions can lead to behaviour or communication which would perhaps be unacceptable in a face-to-face context.

Last week, you explored how showing personal or casual photos or content to professional audiences can unintentionally be damaging to your career prospects. The same is true of behaviour and language. While many social platforms are conversational in nature, you should always try to ensure that your participation is constructive and non-confrontational. This is true even when you disagree with someone else’s perspective.

What does that mean in practice?

You should try to engage with others as you would like to be interacted with. You should also remain positive, constructive and helpful in both your behaviour and your tone.

If you are able to see the best in people and assume good intentions, even in the middle of a heated debate about an issue, you will probably be engaging in a positive way. Even if someone is a potential competitor, it is possible to find ways to disagree respectfully and politely.

You should try to engage with the ideas and use examples, experience and evidence to present an alternative view. Don’t ever resort to name-calling or dismissing someone by attacking their character, background or motive rather than addressing the facts. Plus, positivity is infectious. If you present yourself or your content in a positive, upbeat way, people in the professional sphere are more likely to want to engage with it.

That doesn’t mean you should try to put a positive spin on everything you post. It might mean using language which seeks out possibilities and alternative solutions, or which encourages reflection or personal action rather than shutting down any discussion.

There’s a big difference between:

“This is a terrible ad campaign and everyone involved in it should be fired.”

and:

“How could this campaign work better for the part of society it aims to portray? Can’t help wondering how it would have been different if members of that community had been engaged and consulted at an earlier stage.”

Being constructive also means giving to the community or professional network as much or more than you take. This could include:

  • welcoming new faces
  • answering questions where you can
  • providing links
  • participating in non-vocal ways, such as liking and sharing/retweeting others’ posts.

It is important to demonstrate to the professional community that you are a trustworthy, knowledgeable and accomplished professional. You can prove that you can be an asset to any setting you are a part of, including a workplace, by being genuine and generous with your time, experience, ideas and skills.

Have your say:

What else could you do to help cultivate a safe and positive online environment? Share and discuss your ideas with other learners in the Comments section. Remember to read and respond to other learners. Has anyone suggested something you might like to try yourself?

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This article is from the free online course:

Create a Professional Online Presence

University of Leeds