Working together to help children learn and grow in a complex world
Feb. 7, 2019
Online branding tips for teens
By Phil Spears, Head of School, and Patricia Rossi, Etiquette Guru
The old adage states that you never have a second chance to make a first impression, and today, that impression most often is made on social media.
With so much at stake for teenagers -- college admission, scholarships, first jobs -- it’s more crucial than ever that they learn how to manage their online presence and profiles. With just a few clicks, admission officers and potential employers can learn far more than a student includes on his or her application. It’s within a student’s power to decide whether the impact of that information will be positive or negative, and parents need to help them learn good habits.
“We all have a global brand online,” said Patricia Rossi, author of Everyday Etiquette. Young adults have the opportunity to start building their brands now, as teens, she told guests at a recent workshop at Canterbury School.
At Canterbury, we believe that branding goes far beyond a teen’s public image; it’s who they are and what they do all the time, both off and online. But what we know for sure is that their character is being recorded and revealed all the time online, by others and by what students choose to post.
Given this, students’ online brands should represent and be authentic to their own unique characteristics and passions. To guide student thinking, Rossi suggests starting to build one’s online profile around the 5 Fs: family, food, fun hobbies, favorite teams and festive travel. She also prompts teens to think of six words that support their personal brands. These ideas and values will guide them as they choose what to post.
What image will you present?
To begin with, teens should be identifiable. Their profile names should be the same across all social media channels, and those should be as close to their actual names as possible. Never use Twitter handles that people can’t understand or that don’t align with one’s desired reputation.
Social media Don’ts for teens include humiliating or embarrassing others, using profanity or racial slurs, and allowing themselves to be provoked into arguments. Because social media does not allow for full context and broad, civil discourse on important political topics, steering clear of political posts is also strongly advised.
Instead, social media can be used as a tool for lifting others up and for teens to show how caring, motivated, or well-rounded they are. If someone posts something funny or embarrassing, empathize and laugh with them, not at them. Congratulate friends on their successes and wish them luck with challenges.
It’s as simple as giving kudos. Handwritten thank yous are more precious than ever, but social media gives students a chance to amplify their thanks (and illustrate that they know how to show gratitude) for a job well done.
Social media also gives students an opportunity like never before to follow, connect and communicate with people who inspire them. Whether their goal is to be a sports trainer, a lawyer, or a world-renowned photographer, teens can search for leaders in those fields online and follow them. They can like their posts, share or retweet their ideas, ask them questions, and leave encouraging comments. Safe, public relationships online with leaders and role models can lead a young person to making valuable professional connections.
Photos and videos
Rossi advises teens to be aware of the photographs they post and those that are posted of them. Don’t include images with alcohol or even the ubiquitous red cups that suggest its consumption. Think about attire, too; T-shirts with bad language or costumes that put down other cultures are no-nos. Selfies in front of a mirror are bad form, as well, Rossi says.
Instead, students can post photos of volunteer work that engages or inspires them, hobbies and interests that empassion them, or the jobs that keep them busy. Her own teenage sons both have paying jobs, not just for the experience and the paycheck, but also for building a positive online profile. Demonstrating a genuine willingness to work hard is always a good thing!
Finally, act as if you’re always being recorded, because in many cases, you are, Rossi asserts. Do not be afraid to say “No” to photos and videos.
“We are constantly being streamed,” she says. “Good deeds get shared online.” Bad ones, too.
As parents, whether we like it or not, our teens are creating a lasting personal brand on social media right now. It’s crucial that we help them learn to do it well.