If all you do on Twitter is retweet celebrities, upload photos of tasty meals and devise hilariously embarrassing Throwback Thursday tweets, then you might be interested in these statistics: 77 percent of employers use social media to find job candidates, and 20 percent of them use social media to screen applicants.
Twitter is bound to affect your career, whether you use it for your career not. It’s important to consider how employers might view the content you post.
Stop committing these seven major faux pas:
1. Tweeting about controversial issues.
Would you walk into a job interview, hold out your hand to the person behind the desk and say, “Hi, I’m [your name], and I’d like to talk to you about this nation’s gun laws.”
Of course you wouldn’t. Yet if you post about polarizing topics on Twitter, this is essentially what you’re doing.
Unless you plan to go into advocacy, save such a topic for private discussions with family and friends—not a platform where an employer who feels differently can become instantly biased against you.
2. Forgetting that everyone can see your tweets.
No. 1 may be obvious, but it can often be difficult to tell whether the content you’re posting will offend.
Brands run into this problem all the time. They try to make a quick joke and forget who their core audiences are. They also forget that everyone can see what they’re posting. And “everyone” is a big audience to please.
A recent example is courtesy of FAFSA(Free Application for Federal Student Aid). It tweeted:
This may have been a fun joke for whoever was at the keyboard, but it wasn’t a joke to the millions of Americans who face poverty and turn to FAFSA for help.
Individuals make similar mistakes all the time, and face dire consequences for their careers. Before you tweet, examine what you wrote, think about who it might offend and rewrite if necessary.
3. Not having a focus.
“Here’s what I ate for breakfast!”
“OMG can’t stop playing the new Beyoncé song.”
“For serial, June/July is the best time to be a law-nerd. #majorjudicialdecisions #supremecourtnerd #precedentftw.”
While it’s fine to cultivate a well-rounded Twitter personality, not having any focus can make you seem, well, unfocused. It also means you’re squandering an opportunity to brand yourself as an expert in your field, which can impress employers and help you land a job.
An unfocused Twitter stream also makes it more difficult to grow a following, as you turn away potential followers who might have been interested in one of your topics, but consider the other 95 other topics spam.
4. Engaging in negative conversations.
Twitter is about as public as it can get, so complaining about your co-workers, boss, company and potential or current clients is a no-no. In fact, if you’re a medical professional, therapist, lawyer or anyone bound to a non-disclosure agreement, your tweets could not only get you fired, but your license revoked. You could also end up with a major lawsuit.
Engaging in negative exchanges on Twitter can be just as bad. Added to all of the risks above is the risk that employers will interpret your mudslinging as a lack of empathy and interpersonal skills-two traits essential to thriving in the workplace.
Keep your tweets nice, no matter how much trolls beckon.
5. Tweeting too much.
Tweeting all the time is not only annoying to everyone who follows you, it makes you look like you don’t have a life. That is not the way to build your reputation as an in-demand professional. If you tweet at work, your employer will think you’re off task, and any potential employers will doubt your ability to stay on task.
Limit your tweets to certain times of the day so you can concentrate on your to-do list.
6. Focusing only on yourself.
Twitter is a great way to drive traffic to your content. It’s also a great place to share news about your career developments and let everyone know about your latest vacation.
But Twitter is a way to network and build good will, and you can’t do either of those things when you focus exclusively on yourself. In fact, you’ll find that many more job opportunities fall into your lap when you engage in conversations with people in your industry, whether in response to things they post or as you discuss important industry topics. Also share articles you find interesting and stimulating. These are ways to establish your taste and expertise by looking outside yourself.
7. Overusing hashtags.
A strategically placed hashtag is a great way to help others find your tweets and content, especially if they are about a trending topic. But too many hashtags make you look like an idiot. They make it impossible to discern what you’re trying to say, and half the time the hashtag isn’t even a term anyone is searching.
Unless the hashtag is as funny and ironic as you think it is, neither of those things will scream “intelligent person!” to an employer. Choose a hashtag or two and call it quits-for the sake of your career and humanity.
When you use it correctly, Twitter can be a great way to grow your career. But it can also ruin what you worked so hard to build. Use Twitter strategically, and think before you tweet!
Beverley Reinemann is a freelance writer and blogger. She spends her time traveling, running her blog, Pack Your Passport, and working in online marketing at Distilled. A version of this article originally appeared on JeffBullas.com.