Once upon a time, employers would ask prospective employees for references who they could call to find out more about the candidate’s work. Organizations engaging suppliers and service companies would call past clients to get first-hand accounts of how the candidates performed.
Today, we Google (s goog) candidates to research their online presences, and often pay more attention to their social network activity than we do to their official websites. Candid behavior on social networks has shored up — and undone — countless reputations.
When we’re least expecting it, someone’s viewing our public profiles, and drawing conclusions about whether to follow, friend or even hire us.
Astute people-researchers — your clients, potential employers and customers — are going one better: they’re using social networks to research what others are saying to you, and about you.
Just as they may be more inclined to rely on your social network activity to reflect your true personality, they may see the Twitter @ replies you’ve received as the clearest indication of what your clients or colleagues think of your work.
What Do Your Contacts Say About You?
Take a look at the unofficial, off-the-cuff replies your contacts have made to you through Twitter. What do they say about you and personality?
Different prospects may look for different things in your @ replies; they may research your personal, social interactions as much as the number of retweets and responses your professionally-focused tweets receive.
Whether they’re adept with social media, or haven’t been using it for long, they’re likely to be impressed by the depth of the interactions you have through social media: How often you’re thanked for answering questions or for helping others (and how you’ve done that), what kinds of things people say about your work or performance, and so on.
On a day-to-day basis, few of us think about looking at our @ replies from a professional perspective. But if you’re seeking work, either as an individual or a business, you should.
Soliciting Great @ Replies
If your prospective employer or client uses social networks, @ replies directed at you will undoubtedly contribute to their opinion of you. For large companies dealing with hundreds or thousands of customers, it can be difficult to change the overall tone of @ replies overnight, but those of us with more contained exposure can take steps to build or enrich a record of positive, deep social network interactions in a comparatively short time.
Not surprisingly, those steps are the same ones you’d take if you wanted to be a more engaged, and engaging, social media user. Ask and answer questions, tweet great links and resources (and invite feedback or discussion on them in the process), point to breaking industry news, and contribute to larger discussions on relevant topics or events.
These time-honored tactics for engaging with social network contacts are, as you’d expect, the best way to solicit positive, meaningful @ replies.
Those embarrassing social media anecdotes — the boss spots pictures of an employee doing who-knows-what at a work-sponsored function and hauls them over the coals — and the publicity around social network security, have made most social media users closely consider their exposure through these media.
But the realization that people aren’t just assessing your performance — they’re also assessing the kinds of responses you attract — may make that sense of scrutiny even greater.
The ongoing evolution of social media as a people-research tool is certainly shaping the way we behave through the networks we use. While few of us are likely to make radical changes to our social networking approaches, we may tweak certain messages in light of our increasing exposure.
How do you feel about prospective employers or clients researching you on social media? Are you keeping an eye on the @ replies people make to you?
Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub. req.):