The following is a guest post by Veronica Fielding.

As the unemployment rate rises, people are turning to social networking sites to make important business connections. Many recruiters post vacancies and search for passive candidates on LinkedIn. Facebook, one of the best-known social media sites on the Internet today, has become a valuable way of networking outside your circle.

If you want to use social media to your advantage, it is important to create a professional “personal brand” for job hunting and networking online with Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. You wouldn’t throw a snowball or have a pillow fight with a co-worker and you should avoid these and other annoying applications when you’re networking/job hunting for business purposes on Facebook. You also don’t want to post inappropriate photos or write about last weekend’s drinking binge on your Wall because a potential employer or business partner might see it.

Here are some do’s and don’ts on how to use social media for personal brand management.

DO use your real name to brand professional profiles on LinkedIn or other sites. For personal profiles (stuff you don’t want employers or colleagues to see, such as family photos), pick a made-up username that only your friends or family knows about.

DO be keenly aware that potential employers, clients, and even members of the media may be checking out your online profiles to get a better idea of who you are before they hire, do business with, or interview you. Present yourself at your best, at all times.

DO develop your “elevator pitch” (a concise description of who you are, what you do, and who you do it for) and post it to your online profiles.

DO have a photo on your social media profiles. Help your connections put a face with a name – they’ll be more likely to remember you when they need to find someone with your expertise or skill set.

DO strategize for how you want to be perceived by other business people in your network. Let your overarching strategy guide the type of information you include on your profiles and the tone of the content you post to social media networks.

DO take advantage of Facebook’s excellent privacy options if you choose to have a presence on that site. Facebook makes it easy to split your content into items that can be seen only by close friends and family vs. content that can be seen by your entire network. You can go ahead and post your Maui beach vacation photos so that your college friends can see them, but your boss and that new client you landed yesterday can’t.

DON’T neglect your online profiles once you set them up. Make sure you update your profile details when you change jobs or start a new venture.

DON’T include content on your profile that can be considered controversial. It’s best to leave political and religious preferences off the table.

DON’T use social media as an advertising tool. Just as businesses have learned the hard way that their audiences don’t want to see marketing messages on their social networking sites, your personal network will not appreciate being spammed with information about your latest business products or services.

DON’T use add-in applications unless you carefully review the terms of use for each one. There are few LinkedIn and even fewer Facebook applications that are appropriate or useful for business purposes, so it’s often best to avoid them entirely. If you do decide that you would like to “throw a snowball” at some of your Facebook friends, make sure that you don’t let the application access your entire contact list.

DON’T forget to make sure all your social media profiles are indexed by the search engines. Facebook and LinkedIn both give users the option to allow their profile to be indexed or not. Part of a good online brand management strategy is taking ownership of the search results that are served up when someone searches for your name. Social media profiles are a great, easy way to take over some of those top 10 results.

Veronica Fielding is the president of Digital Brand Expressions and publisher of The Jump Start Social Media Guide For Professionals.

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