Social Media Tips with NYT's Jennifer Preston

The former social media editor of the New York Times on why women need to know LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter

by Lesley Kennedy • Reporter
jennifer preston image
Jennifer Preston writes for The New York Times' The Lede blog.
Photograph: Photo courtesy NYT

Even with the highest privacy settings, you still run the risk of having one of your friends sharing content that you posted with their network. Then it can just end up out there to be found. So remember, nothing online is private. As a reporter, I can tell you that it is possible to find pretty much whatever information people post online, whether it is a review of a hotel on Trip Advisor or a comment submitted on an online newspaper site, as well as updates, photos and videos shared on social media platforms. There are now tools that display what YouTube videos you like or shared, and what you listen to on Pandora.

MORE: Employers are checking out that info too.
JP: Surveys show that 75 percent of employers conduct Google and social media searches on prospective employees. There's a company called Social Intelligence that I wrote about last August that conducts deep web searches of prospective employees on behalf of employers, looking back at someone's online history for seven years. And people have lost job opportunities because of photos and remarks they made online.

That said, women need to be mindful that one of the most effective ways to find work is to have and maintain an online presence, starting with a LinkedIn account. For many jobs, it is vital that women embrace digital technology and learn how to use these tools so that they can stay relevant in their current role or move up in their organization. That means people need to figure out how to present their so-called personal brand online. For most people, that begins with a LinkedIn account. That's the first place many employers look when they are searching for candidates or considering people for a position. Social media and blogs also provide women with an enormous opportunity to showcase their expertise or to help find prospective clients or employers.

MORE: How can women shut down social media during off-hours so we don’t feel like we're working 24/7?
JP: We all need to set boundaries between our personal and professional lives and to manage expectations about when we are available and when we are not. If you have a boss or a colleague who sends you non-urgent email or direct messages on Twitter about work over a weekend, don't answer until late Sunday night or early Monday morning. It is important for us to figure out how to make smartphones, social media, Skype and all of these great new tools work for us. We don't work for them.

I remember that a couple of days after I was named social media editor, I didn't post anything on Twitter because I had taken a day off to help my twins get ready for their junior prom. I had to explain the next day why I didn't post any updates that day or respond to people's inquiries . . . As my mother often reminds me, don't get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life. And I would say the same goes for social media: Don't get so busy being social online that you forget to be social in real life.

MORE: You wrote a recent piece for the Times on how women are retraining themselves in social media. What social media skills do employers expect applicants to have today?
JP: Of course, it depends on your field. But, as I noted in that piece, it is important for people looking for a job to maintain an online presence that presents them in a favorable light. I interviewed a terrific woman in her forties with deep marketing and senior communications skills and years of experience in the fashion industry. She was returning to the workplace after a couple of years and bolstered her already impressive resumè with a new layer of social media skills she acquired from various online programs. She said she felt that the landscape had changed so much in a couple of years that it was vital for her to bring knowledge about how to use social media and measure its effectiveness in order to land a new job.

MORE: Do you recommend getting social media training?
JP: Yes. I do recommend that people take advantage of the many online opportunities available through universities and online learning websites like Mediabistro.

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