Monday, January 28, 2013

Social Media, Background Checks, and Company Policy: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!

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Ready to jumpstart your career?  If you are looking for an internship, your first job, or even for that well-deserved promotion, it is best to go in with all bases covered.  Knowing what is "out there" about you and understanding how that can be used as part of an employment Background Check is key.

And if you are a Small Business Owner, understanding how to legally use social media information in screening your applicants is simply good business!  Read on.....

How Much of what You Post Online is Really Private?  Should You be Concerned what is “Out There” About You?  The answer?  A Resounding YES!

Despite privacy settings, probably very little of what you post online is truly private.  Do you know what your friends or “online acquaintances” are posting or sharing online about you?

A Hot topic is the use of information found on Social Media by Employers both during the Hiring Process and in Dictating Employee Conduct.  Questions revolve around how much of what is found can be used to either make employment decisions or be used to contain existing employee’s online behavior.

In the first of this two part series, I will discuss how Social Media posts, pictures, etc. are used during the hiring process.  

Many times it is not part of the “formal” background check investigation, but is often an added “tool” used by the hiring company or background check investigator for getting a clearer picture of the applicant.

Most employers or their agents run an applicant’s name through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. to see what is “out there”.  For this reason, I recommend any job seeker do a Background Check on themselves prior to putting out that first application (read my earlier blog post on this topic).

What most companies do not do, and definitely should not do, is request an applicant’s passwords to access those accounts. Checking to see what is readily available to the public on those platforms is a far cry from asking for passwords to do so.  As an employer, it is not wise to attempt to gain this information from anyone.  

In fact, in many cities and states it is illegal.

Some states have passed their own laws to prohibit the request of passwords (and I predict many more will follow suit) *Source1.  It is a clear invasion of privacy to ever request this type of personal information.  

Despite regulations governing the requesting of passwords, applicants and employees still need to be mindful of what they post.  

It goes without saying that your sites should be set to private. 
However, it would still be in your best interests to refrain from posting anything that could seen in a negative or controversial way. 

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Social network posts, comments, and pictures by either you or others may reveal information about you that you might not want a potential employer to know

The truth is, employers often use whatever information they can obtain to help them make a hiring decision. It is important that you know what information can be seen by those not even in “your circle” and to think about what kind of conclusions might be drawn from it.

Nothing Online is Ever Truly Private!  "Tweet This"

Your best course of action is to imagine anything you post could possibly be seen by a wide variety of people - your family, friends, neighbors, teachers, employers, and even those that are strangers to you.  Using that as a guide, do you still want to share that post?  Asking yourself that question BEFORE you share is the wise way to go.

Your posts may also open you up to potential discrimination by employers.  You need to evaluate whether you reveal things such as your sexual orientation, political views, or any groups affiliations that could be held against you.

While there are existing laws designed to prevent discrimination based on things such as age, race, gender, and disabilities; the laws are just beginning to address the other issues I mentioned above.  

It also important to understand that the individuals responsible for screening potential hires are human.  Once they see things, they cannot be unseen.

Another thing you need to consider is whether you have shared any negative posts about your current or former employer.  Many times this can also have a negative impact on your chances of getting a job offer.

Now lets look at the reverse, How using Social Media correctly can actually HELP you find a job or get a promotion.  Since you know that  your social media posts and profiles will most likely be seen as part of the hiring process, why not use that to your advantage?

When setting up your profile, make sure you present yourself in a good light.  Highlight your education, professional accomplishments, charity work, and volunteer activities.  Creating a page that shows you are an interesting and accomplished individual can help you land that job.

It is not all about bragging or showing off.  Employers like well-rounded people.  If your posts and profiles reveal a person who likes to be involved, stays active in your community, and is generally interested and interesting, you will stand out beyond your resume.

The key take away here is to be aware.  You need to know what your Social Media presence says about you.  Is it a picture you want to paint?

Think twice about what you post and remember, it is best to assume that nothing on the internet is ever really private and may be used against you!

Check out Part 2 in this series on what a company needs to do to establish a sound Social Media Policy!

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Source1:  New laws in six states ban employers from asking for social media passwords

Sunday, January 20, 2013

10 Lessons to Help You Find Success in Your Small Business!


Business Mistakes do not have to derail you.  If you look at them correctly, they can be a great way to re-focus your business and find greater success than ever before!

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill

We have all been there.  We think we are firmly on the right path. We have done what we need to do and are ready to start or expand our own business.  We are slowly building up our client base, providing a quality product or service, and generally on our way to success.

Then it happens...................

All small business owners know that potential problems are everywhere.  We also know that even if we are not at fault, these problems need to be resolved in order to keep our clients happy and our company on the right track.

Of course hindsight is 20/20, but I will share with you 10 lessons I have learned over the course of my business.  Yes, I wish I could go back and do some things differently, but I believe it is more important to identify and rectify these mistakes than to believe they could have been averted.

10 Things You Need to Know about Small Business!  "Tweet This"

What I have Learned about Business:

  • You Need to Be Specific about the Scope of Your Business
The more you are able to find that “niche” in the market, the easier your road to success will be.  By being specific, you are immediately able to set yourself apart.

  • You Need to Write a Business Plan
Putting your plan in writing gives it an immediate feeling of “reality”.  It does not have to be a long, tedious document full of “legalese”.  It does, however, have to be a map of your company. It should outline your purpose, structure, and operating procedures. Remember, this is not set in stone.  Most likely it will always be adaptable (and this is a good thing!).

  • You Need to Spend Your Time on “Smart” Marketing
First and foremost, you need to know where your customers are and Go There!  Marketing is all about repetition.  Make sure your name is seen frequently no matter what methods you choose.

  • You Need to Value Your Worth
One of the hardest things for many new businesses to realize is that “time is money”.  When you are figuring out the prices for your products or services, it is important to factor in your time.

Each moment you spend has value.  The lesson I needed to learn early on was not to short change myself.  You may have to study your competition to get a feel for this, but it is worth it - and will save you a lot of headaches in the long run.

  • You Need to Be Willing to Outsource Things You Can’t (or Just Don’t Want to) Do Yourself
We are not all experts in everything.  It is much more cost effective to outsource.  For example, I have outsourced my taxes from day one.  I don’t do my personal taxes, why would I ever attempt to do them for my business?  I know that they are done right by my accountant and that he is more likely to keep updated on all regulations more than I ever would!

#SmallBizTips & #Hiring

  • You Need to Stay Motivated
It is easy to be “gung ho” in the beginning - sustaining that for the long haul is something else.  You need to do whatever it takes to keep things fresh and interesting.

For me, that means re-evaluating at the end of each year and re-inventing myself with what I have learned (check out my end of the year blog article on this here).  When I am able to shake things up a bit, it keeps me interested and committed.

  • You Need to Find What Works For You
It is important to realize that what works for someone else may not work for you.  Copying someone else’s path to success will most likely result in your failure.  Why?  Because you need to think of yourself as unique!

It is important to focus on why you are different from your competitors, not how you are the same.  As I stated previously, find your unique “niche” and run with it.

  • You Need to Realize the Need to Separate “Professional” from “Personal”
One mistake many new business owners make is not realizing the importance of “taking a break”.  It is not productive, or healthy, to spend all your waking hours on your business.

I have found that it is essential to “unplug” and recharge.  I can then return to work refreshed and able to focus on the tasks at hand.

You can find out more about the need for downtime in "Stop ~ 
Why it is time for You to Unplug from Your Job!"

  • You Need to Be Authentic to Build Trust
Building trust is key to creating a “brand” that others want to do business with.  You need to have a good grasp of the values under which you want to conduct your business.  You then need to align your actions with those values.

Many business owners are under the misguided impression that true “honesty” cannot be accomplished in business.  This is a big mistake.

Being “fake” or not genuine will be found out.  Those that promise the moon but deliver nothing may win the initial battle, but will surely falter in the long war!

  •  If You Can, You Need to Go It Alone
“My mistake was putting my product in small shops and letting someone else sell it for me. I will never do that again. I lost sales and money.” -Veronica Nourse, The Cupertino Soap Company

No one knows your business like you do!  These words cannot be said often enough.  You know the direction you want to go, and you know the steps you are willing to take to get there.  Face it, only you know your product or service inside and out.

Having the freedom to take your business in the direction you alone choose is exhilarating!

Just remember, making mistakes and learning along the way can be a good thing.

#Einstein & Me in DC

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”     Thomas Edison

The bottom line is, despite mistakes and misdirections, you can succeed.  By its very nature, running your own business is at times filled with uncertainty and fear.  It is your ability to look past those mistakes and fears that will define you as a business owner and as a person.  

Please Share this and Leave a Comment.  I would love to hear from You!

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Your Small Business!

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Monday, January 14, 2013

What I Have Learned Navigating the World of Social Media!

I am still constantly amazed at what using social media (even with my limited "tech" skills) has brought to my business.  I continue to be grateful for the wonderful connections I have made and enjoy the wider audience I have been able to reach....

Like most of us, I have hopped on the “Social Media” bandwagon.  I have the obligatory business and personal Facebook pages, LinkedIn profile, a website, and blog.

I have also joined groups within these platforms to keep me informed and to make the connections I need.  I contribute regularly to these groups by posting both original and shared content.

So, what is the problem?  It can all be so overwhelming! 

I am sure that I am not saying anything new here.  We have all found ourselves feeling pulled in too many directions and unsure as to whether we were truly giving our best to any of them.

Add in the need to do our “regular” work, and there is a recipe for overload in the making.

As I took stock of the situation at the end of the year (great time for reflection don’t you think?), I vowed to make a change.  My goal was to increase the quality of my social media presence, but decrease the “hair pulling” that had been a large part of the process in the past.

After taking a good, honest look at the situation, this is what I decided:

 I Need to Realize I Cannot Be Everywhere

The key here is to determine where your existing and desired
        client base is and go there.  Being on too many Social Media
        sites just waters down your efforts.

Narrowing your scope will actually broaden your reach.  It
        will take up much less of your time and will pay off with
        increased engagement with your clients. 

 I Need to Listen to My Fans

The most important thing to remember is that Social Media is
        not about selling.  Of course we all want that in the end, but
        first and foremost it is about “clicking” with your customers.

Your goal should be to listen to what is important to them and
provide information to help solve their problems, get them
        thinking, and entertain.

This is also a great way to find new ideas as topics for your
        original and shared content.  Writing and posting topics of
        interest to your fan base makes it so much easier to find the
        engagement and sense of community we all want.

 I Need to Schedule My Posts

Use those Social Media management tools to pre-schedule
        your  updates.  Schedule a time every day or every other day
        (find what works best for you) and set up your posts all at

Using these tools will allow your posts to show up regularly 
throughout the day.  This has been the single most effective
tool to free up more of my time.

 I Need to Learn Where to Find Great Content

While there is no doubt original content rules, the main
        reason I started blogging (check out my previous article here 
        to find out more),  most of us will need to share content from
        others.  When doing this, it  is important to keep in mind the
        “voice” you want to project and only share content that
        mirrors this.

At first I was scanning the internet and sites like LinkedIn to
        find what I needed.  Then this past year I came upon a site
        called “Prismatic”.  Prismatic allows me to type in key words
        to locate articles on topics I am interested in sharing.  This
        has really taken the headache out of the process.

 I Need to Make and Nurture “True” Connections

I need to preface this by saying I am not a huge fan of 
        “connecting” just to “connect”.  The connections I value are
        the ones where there is a lot of give and take.

I have been fortunate enough to find a few unique and very
        giving people on my social networks.  We encourage each
        other, share each other’s posts and blog articles, and
        genuinely promote each other.

These are the connections I will take the time to engage with 
regularly and strive to make more like these.  This is where I
find my true “value” - having the opportunity to create such a
reciprocal relationship.

 I Need To Relax

Does it really matter if one of my posts doesn’t get the “likes”
        or comments that another one does?  Does that make that post
        any less relevant or worthwhile?  The short answer is “No”!

While I know right about now many of you are in an uproar, I 
        just don’t see it that way.  In the  eyes of many, the statistics
        on views, engagement, and ROI (Return on Investment) are
        the “be all and end all” of any Social Media effort.

I like to take a broader view.  My goal is long term.  I do not
        expect “instant” gratification.  I look at my social media
        efforts as a process.  One that over time will make more
        people aware of my company and my business philosophies, 
        more than I could ever have hoped to reach through any other

The bottom line....using Social Media platforms to promote your business is good business.  It is a fantastic way to extend your client base way beyond the reach of traditional means.

However, I choose to take it slow.  I have come to realize that making  myself crazy over statistics and spreading myself too thin are counter-productive.

I am subscribing to the old saying “slow and steady wins the race”. Having the chance to establish myself and gain trust in what I have to say are my true goals.

Now it is time to discover your own!  Good Luck!

Authored by

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Email me at .  You can also visit my blog and website  I would love to hear from you!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Have You Ever Considered Starting a Blog? If Not, You Should!

I recently went to a networking group meeting where the topic was Public Relations.

We were sharing ways to get the word out about our businesses, both paid and free.  I brought up the topic of blogging.

I am still amazed by what blogging has done for me and my business.  And I believe it can help you too......

Blogging is the singular most enjoyable and productive business tool You can Use.  "Tweet This"

I have been able to express my viewpoints on a variety of topics directly related to my field of background checks and have also enjoyed covering Small Business and Women in Business issues.

I have to confess....I sort of “jumped right in” when I began blogging.  I had started my business Facebook page and was intently working on sharing interesting and relevant content.  I found myself constantly including my “take” and opinion with each post.  It was suggested to me that since I was already sharing my voice, blogging would be perfect for me.  

I became intrigued with the idea, but had never actually read a blog or thought of writing one until then.  So one day, as part of my daughter’s Master’s course in Social Media, she set up my blog.

Now I had to no excuse not to start writing!  I began with writing an article strictly in my field, but soon found that was too narrow a scope.  I chose to extend my reach to Small Business and Women in Business issues, and it has made all the difference.

By expanding my subject matter, I have been able to diversify my client base and attract a whole new market.  The focus of my blog evolved beyond just writing the best blog I was capable of writing but became centered on writing a blog that was great for my readers.

So, once You decide that you want to give blogging a try, where do you begin?  There are some great free platforms out there you can use to publish your blog (I chose Blogger).  

But where do you go beyond that?  You Need to Ask Yourself Some Basic Questions to Get You Started:

"Target Your Blog Posts"

  • Who is Your Audience?

Are you trying to reach existing clients or trying to reach new ones?  Are you planning to promote blog solely within your industry or is it going to have a broader reach?

Asking and answering these questions early in the process will really help you with your focus.  I decided early on that it was important to  me to go beyond the borders of my existing market.  This has really freed me to be more creative with my content and expand my potential client base.

  • What Do You Want to Share with Your Audience?

This is an important step in your blogging journey.  Being focused at this juncture is crucial in creating your “voice” or niche in the market. 

You need to determine if you are in it to promote your business, educate your readers, or to make money.  It is not that you can’t do all three, it is just that the PRIMARY focus is what you want to shine through.

Deciding this will help you choose your blog topics and really make your blog part of your “brand”.

  • What Do You Want to Name Your Blog?

The name should reflect your “brand” and/or your company.  It should blend in seamlessly with your website, Facebook page, and any other forms of Social Media you use.

I chose to name my blog using my company name, Access Profiles.  believe that creates an undeniable link to all my social media and  avoids confusion.

I also like to use a “tag line” (mine is right under my blog name) that gives readers a glimpse into the focus of my blog.  Choosing these  words carefully can help your “search optimization”.

"Create Your Successful Blog"

  • Do Your Readers Have a Way to Contact You Within Your Blog?

Providing an email contact (even one you create solely for your blog) is important.  Of course comments left on your blog are appreciated, but your readers will appreciate being able to contact you directly also.

You should also include links to your website, Facebook page,
LinkedIn profile, etc. on your blog “Contact” page.  Conversely, a link to your blog should appear on each.

You want all your Social Media platforms to work together and make it easy for your clients and readers to find you!

  • Do You Have a Plan for Dealing with Comments?

Just like on any Social Media platform, you need to decide how you will handle any “less than flattering” or dissenting comments.   My suggestion, don’t wait until something happens to decide on your course of action.

In my blog, I have taken to replying  to comments directly on my blog.  I wanted that sense of “community” and interaction that I find on Facebook and LinkedIn.  This includes those comments that may not agree with my thoughts.  Replying is key.

  •   Finally, Are You Willing to Put the Time and Effort into Your Blog?

The truth is that blogging is not always easy.  There will be times that you are “uninspired” and are having trouble coming up with a topic or content.  My advice is to plan for those times.  

My method is to keep a running list of blog ideas (I use  the “notes” option on my MacBook and have recently added Evernote).  Whenever I come across an article or read a comment that gives me pause, I jot down my thoughts.  I include a  link to the article or paraphrase the original comment.

This gives me “ready made” ideas to combat the times when I am feeling less than inspired.  Doing this has made all the difference!

I believe blogging is a wonderful way to reach people.  Don’t get all wrapped up in how many comments or views you get.  It takes time to build a blogging presence.  

Be patient and I think you will find it to be extremely rewarding and, 
most of all, FUN!  
Good luck, and feel free to message me with a link to your new blog....I would love to take a look!

I can help you with your Blog.  
Whether you are looking for someone to give your article a "polish" 
or need someone to write the whole thing, message or call me!

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