Social media is now part and parcel of most of our everyday lives. The latest stats say that 63% of all adults in the UK are logging on everyday, with that rising to a massive 91% of 16 to 24 year olds, with 25-34 and 35-44 year olds not far behind. The percentages have been growing every year since 2006.
It will therefore come as little surprise that social media is increasingly having a very powerful effect on our working lives and careers too.
For one thing, more and more people are getting fired because of posts on social media, whether due to inadvisable Facebook status updates slating their workplaces or getting involved in bad-mouthed Twitter spats.
Remember - anything posted online has the potential to be there forever. Just because you deleted that late-night drunken rant about your job doesn't mean that someone who has it in for you hasn't already screengrabbed it and sent it to HR. And sometimes employers find ways round privacy settings anyway - I've heard of someone who got sacked for a law firm for posting a Facebook update about a colleague's terrible driving, despite their account being set to friends only.
But there's another dark side to social media too - it can hinder your career progression and stop you getting the jobs you want in the future, never mind getting yourself sacked from a job you already have.
Social media activity is increasingly influencing the recruitment process and recent figures show that a third of employers have actually turned down job candidates after interview because of their profiles - so you need to get yours in shape and adopt a strategy going forward NOW.
Of course, we all know that recruiters trawl LinkedIn looking for new employees - but more than half in the UK are now checking out your Twitter, Facebook and Insta etc to make snap judgements on whether you're going to be a suitable candidate in the first place.
Big brother is watching you! It's enough to make you paranoid and change the settings on all your accounts to private.
However, lock down your privacy too much, and employers might think you've got something to hide. Locking a Twitter to private seems like lunacy for one thing. I've heard of recruiters who actively won't hire people who have no social media presence as they like to see the kind of person you are. And well, everyone is online nowadays so it seems a bit weird if you're not.
A good way round this is to delete anything on your accounts that might be a bit dodgy, then going forward, keep Facebook as friends only, and have Twitter and Insta as your public-facing social feeds.
Once you've sorted out your privacy settings, it's worth making sure you're not committing any of these social media faux pas.
Avoid negative updates
What does an angry rant or a self-indulgent whine say about you? It says you're more interested in starting rows, deflecting blame and fishing for sympathy than you are in coming up with solutions to problems. Much like a CV or a LinkedIn profile, avoid mentioning negative outcomes, especially when it comes to things that have happened at work. And it goes without saying that you shouldn't be posting at all during working hours, unless of course, you work in social media.
Tone down the activity!
When it comes to liking, sharing, retweeting and commenting, try to rein it in a bit. The last thing you want, should a prospective employer glance at your page, is for them to think that you have too much time on your hands. Similarly, give some thought to what you are liking and retweeting. While your political views should have no bearing on your eligibility as a candidate, you don't want to risk crossing paths with an interviewer who has taken umbrage with something they've seen on your profile.
What are your friends like?
While you should be judged as a candidate entirely on your own merits, the likelihood is that if an employer has found you on social media, they have also made some observations on the company you keep. Now of course there's nothing wrong with having an active social life - but if your friends are constantly tagging you in photos of rowdy nights out, you might want to consider clicking 'Hide from Timeline' on a few offending pictures. And if you want to have a chat with your best mate, complete with affectionate ribbing and filthy in-jokes, keep it to private messages.
Ultimately, think before you post
Seeing as more than 70% of British adults access social media 'on the go' via their phones (a number which has almost doubled since 2011), it's easier than ever to post now, repent at leisure.
So take a deep breath, have a moment and pause for thought. Before you hit 'post', imagine "what would a recruiter think"? Social media is after all, all about you - so don't tarnish your image and wreck your career prospects for the sake of a few likes and lolz.