Many are familiar with this scenario: you go to a fun event or take a vacation, and along the way you upload some photos and videos to your favorite social networking sites. After the event or trip is over, you post more pictures videos because you have more time to really put all your content out there. Many people do this on a regular basis without much thought at all. But others do put thought into it because they are aware of their personal brand and do not want to ruin their online image. The question I am asked often is “When it comes to pictures and videos, how human can I be before Googling employers (current or future) will decide I crossed the line between a professional and unprofessional image?
The answer to that question really comes down to just using common sense. However, with so many stigmas on photos and videos it doesn’t surprise me to learn that some folks think that the only visual content they can put out there are pictures of themselves smiling at church.
But you really can post much more than that! You can post any photos or videos on a public website as long as they are clean, upbeat and do not portray yourself in a negative light. So, that leads to the question, what exactly does that look like?
What Type of Content Crosses the Line?
Yes you can. Just be very careful about the context of the picture. If you are sitting outside grilling out with family and friends, or you are on vacation, and you post a picture of you (with or without someone else) and there are drinks on the table or you are holding a beer – that really is not an issue.
However, it should be a clean, fun picture. The picture in this article is a good example of what I would consider to be perfectly acceptable. Yes, the couple is holding drinks but drinking alcohol is not an illegal activity! Your pictures just need to reflect the fact that you are responsible and respectful when it comes to alcohol.
You need to consider what other people are doing in your pictures as well. Do they have their tongues out or are they grabbing at others? No, you should not post pictures like that. Just use common sense here. Pictures that contain alcoholic drinks should appear as fun gatherings (not crazy parties), or just relaxing times and everyone in the picture should appear sober. One crazy drunk in the picture turns the fun gathering perception into a crazy party perception. And perception is everything.
Assess the overall theme of all the pictures that you post. While having a few pictures of yourself with a drink in your hand is okay, if someone were to look through all of your content, how many of the pictures are like this? If you have 50 pictures of you online and you have a drink in your hand in more than half of them – take some out. As clean as the pictures may be, it will get noticed as a pattern. Same rule applies for pictures in bars. A couple of fun, clean pictures are okay, but if you have a lot of pictures of you in bars, you will be perceived as a party animal.
It’s Not Just About Drinking
In addition to excessive and crazy drinking photos, there are many other scenarios where it is best to keep the pictures offline. For example, don’t post pictures of you hugging and kissing 10 different people- even if its just family members. Unless you caption all your pictures, no one will know that. Take notice of the clothing you are wearing as well. Don’t post pictures of you in various states of undress or in promiscuous clothing or appearing suggestive in any way.
Other things you should screen out before posting are pictures with you or someone else making obscene gestures, smoking, or doing anything that might appear as illegal (theft, vandalism, disorderly conduct, etc.).
Those guidelines also apply to videos of you. But since videos show much more than a photo, you need to be very careful that you do not post them if you are acting crazy, drunk, promiscuous, obscene, etc. (or if anyone else is for that matter) – even if that type of content is only 20 seconds of a 3 minute video. Remember, It’s the context that matters and every person in the video creates that context – not just you.
Review Your ‘Other’ Pictures and Videos
It’ important to realize that there are other types of pictures and videos that can hurt your personal brand that don’t even require you to be in them. I see this come up often – people posting pictures and videos of comedians, actors, actresses, or random YouTube videos where the content is offensive. Perhaps there is a lot of profane language or sexual content or it is just generally in bad taste.
Quite honestly, it doesn’t matter whether or not you are in the pictures or videos. If you post them, you are promoting the content and that is a direct reflection on your character. Only post videos that are in good taste.
Posting pictures and videos online just requires a lot of common sense. When it comes to employers Googling you, just ask yourself this question before you post, “Would I want my current or future employer to see this?” If the answer is no, then don’t post it! And if you have friends snapping photos of you and creating videos, always be clear with them about what don’t want them to share online about you!
Jessica Simko is a seasoned senior level Human Resources professional with over 15 years of experience in all facets of Human Resources Management. She is a Career Coach and Consultant specializing in helping all levels of career professionals create, build, and maintain a strong career brand in the corporate work culture. She strives to help people connect their passions with their jobs and then to leverage their brand to maximize their potential throughout their careers. She offers a wide variety of career branding articles and tips at Career Branding Guide where she also offers coaching and consulting services based on the Career Branding Guide model. Feel free to connect with her on: