I decided to write this post after getting frustrated with a couple of Facebook status updates during the snow holiday in Istanbul. Those messages looked very unprofessional, and I thought it was a shame because those teachers also had their students (maybe students’ parents) and some administrators as Facebook friends. Taking this as a starting point, I listed some other issues that I think are problems in terms of looking professional online. I want to emphasize that I am not an ‘online image management’ expert and these are just my personal opinions.
1. Use your real name and use the same name across all online networks.
If you are using online social networks for professional purposes, I think using a nickname on networks is no different to using a nickname in your school or classroom. Although these are online networks and the people in your network are usually people you do not meet face-to-face, they are still ‘real’ people and you are there with your ‘real’ identity. I do not think it is a sincere approach to use a nickname so people cannot see who you really are.
However, using a different profile name does not necessarily mean that you are hiding your real identity. I think it is perfectly ok to choose a different name if:
- you have a long name
- your name has been been taken by a person with the same name
- you prefer to choose a profile name that is related to your profession
- you represent a school, association or a company
…and you can still add your real name to your profile so that people know who they are talking to.
Besides, I believe educators should use the same name across all online networks: as with using a nickname, it is like using different names in different places in your real life.
2. If you want to be followed by educators on Twitter, tell people who you are.
When someone starts following me, first I read their biodata then have a quick look at their tweets. I sometimes don’t have time to read the tweets and if there is no information about the new follower, I choose not to follow back. If you want to build a PLN, you need to take some time and tell people who you are in 160 characters or less. If you do not know what to write, you can read other people’s biodatas for inspiration.
3. Do you really need to protect your tweets?
I don’t see the point of having a private account on Twitter if you are there to share. It might be ok if you are sharing very personal information, pictures and so on – but if your reason for being there is to share ideas, resources and links, why are you protecting your tweets and who are you protecting them from? To tell the truth, I usually don’t follow back if a new follower’s account is protected.
4. Use a real and positive-looking picture of yourself as your profile picture.
This is a personal preference, I must admit. Since I think there is no difference between my online-self and the ‘me in real life’, I prefer to use a picture that is ‘me’.
5. If you have a silly email address, get another one.
Once I had an interview with a teacher whose email address was something like firstname.lastname@example.org, and this ‘sweet’ email address had a very negative affect on my impression of her. I cannot imagine her giving this email address to her students at high school.
Email is one of the ways people can contact you online and if you are an educator, I don’t think you should use a silly email address like the one above.
6. Carefully re-read blog entries, status updates or tweets for grammar and spelling before you post them.
Some recent Facebook updates I read made me include this in my list. Of course we make mistakes, and we cannot get everything we write proofread. But if we are English teachers, we must be more careful than other people – especially if we have our students and their parents in our networks…
7. Don’t give the impression that you are a teacher who hates going to school.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read some messages during the snow holiday in Istanbul. I don’t know anyone (including myself) who doesn’t feel happy when there is an unexpected break like this. But I think we, as teachers, need to keep some feelings to ourselves if we have students and their parents in our networks. Keep it to yourself if:
- you don’t want to go to school because you’re tired
- you don’t want to mark the exams
- a class gives you a headache
- you do not like a colleague or an administrator
- you cannot manage a student and you have negative feelings for him/her
- you are not happy about your working conditions, etc.
8. Be aware that unprofessional looking photos or videos might ruin your career.
Be careful about the photos and videos you share on online social networks. If someone tags a questionable photo of you on Facebook, you can remove the tag yourself. If you can’t remove the tag, you can ask your friend nicely to do it for you.
9. Don’t send direct messages to people in your Facebook or Twitter network unless you have something to say.
Sometimes I receive direct messages like ‘hi!’, ‘how are you?’. As you can imagine, the answer could be ‘hi, I’m ok, you?’, but why would I want to have a conversation like this? I have people in my network that I don’t know in person and I prefer to interact and share ideas with them publicly. Of course it is ok to send a direct message if there is something to say. But, personally, I don’t like people sending private messages just to ask how I am or to promote their blog posts or products.
10. Don’t add people to Facebook groups, or send game requests, without asking them.
This is as annoying and meaningless as direct messages. Remember that people might not be interested in the Groups you have created or the games that you are playing. You can recommend Groups, games, apps and so on via status updates and your friends can decide whether to join or not.
As I mentioned at the beginning, these are my personal opinions and I don’t think there are any certain rules for standard professional behavior online.
What do you think?