Q: I’ve been told that my “digital footprint” is more important than a resume. I’m on LinkedIn, but otherwise don’t partake in social media—no Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. I’m not terribly interested in starting to use them, as it’s just not how I like to interact with the world or how I want to spend my time. Am I shooting myself in the foot?
A: I’m not sure that your digital footprint is more important than a resume, but it’s close. Unless your job is in social media, marketing, or a related field, you shouldn’t feel the need to suddenly open a Twitter account or Instagram profile and start posting ten times a day. If your concern about social media is in relation to your professional life, LinkedIn is the place to invest your time and energy.
For today’s professionals, being on LinkedIn is key—recruiters and hiring managers rely on it to learn more about you. If you’re a professional missing from LinkedIn, people will wonder why and whether there are professional issues you don’t want being addressed. The value of LinkedIn over a resume is that you have a lot more real estate—you can list and explain projects you’ve worked on that highlight your professional expertise and areas of interest.
LinkedIn is not static. It needs to be tended, enhanced, and built up over time. Cultivating a strong, dynamic LinkedIn presence means connecting with people, following organizations of interest, posting interesting articles, and commenting on other people’s posts. LinkedIn, as opposed to a resume, provides a three-dimensional view of an individual professionally, their areas of interest as well as their professional relationships and recommendations. Recruiters and companies want to know how they are connected to you, what you’ve done, and what you’re interested in, and they can gather that information much more easily on LinkedIn.
Your hesitation about a social media presence is smart. Whether it’s Facebook ,Twitter, or LinkedIn, be careful about what you put online. Even if you delete or edit something that could potentially cause you professional harm or embarrassment, it’s likely already been seen or can still be found. Plenty of recruiters will find a candidate on Facebook or other sites as a way to gather information and seek out any glaring red flags—again, they’re trying to gain that three-dimensional picture of who you are. So if all of your Facebook pictures feature you and a red Solo cup, there’s going to be an issue (and you should make your account private right away). But if your social media profiles show you’re a rider for the Pan-Mass Challenge or a volunteer at a shelter, you’re presenting a more professional image.
Don’t feel compelled to start an account with every social media platform but do tend to your LinkedIn. Focus your energy on demonstrating your professional talents, building a great network of contacts, and showcasing your experience in the best possible way.