Social media offers individuals an excellent environment to promote their personal brand to strengthen their professional platform. However, if engaged carelessly or irresponsibly, social media can sink you faster than the Titanic after it met the iceberg. Certainly nobody is perfect, but if you consider the 7 career-saving social media strategies below you will be more likely to swim than sink in social media.

1. Add Value to Conversations: If all you do with social media is re-tweet and share the ideas of others then it is apparent you won’t offer a potential employer original thoughts and you most likely lack motivation and initiative. In short: don’t be boring!

2. Avoid Smack Talking or Trolling: Politics, religion, and sports are topics about which people are passionate, but when you go overboard emotionally you can get yourself into trouble. Even a casual comment on an article on Facebook or a reply to a Tweet can come back to haunt you. There are countless stories of people getting fired from a job before they even start it due to a careless tweet or flippant Facebook post.

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3. Don’t Discriminate: 34% of employers in CareerBuilder’s recruitment study reacted negatively to finding social media posts with discriminatory comments related to race, religion, and gender. Another 29% of employers reacted negatively to social media posts with discriminatory comments related to race, religion, and gender. And, even if your intent was to be humorous, keep in mind that comedy doesn’t often translate online or across cultures; something you might think is funny might be offensive to others.

4. Keep Private Info Private: Unless your name is Julian Assange, you’re likely not going to make friends or influence people by disclosing sensitive or confidential information on social media. And, no matter how quickly you might try to delete it, social media remembers. You might also inadvertently share private information in public, especially on Facebook, where most people seem to misunderstand the platform’s privacy policies.

5. Post Appropriate Pictures: 46% of the employers in CareerBuilder’s annual social media recruitment study said provocative or inappropriate photographs are a big red flag. Another 40% said finding information about candidates drinking or using drugs was another reason to pass.  In short: don’t put your faults and foils on display for a future employer to find. Christopher Affsa, an attorney at the Law Office of Daniel F. Affsa in Weymouth, Massachusetts, shared the following:

“I had a drunk driving client tell me she went to one bar and only had one drink. I checked her Facebook and her profile picture was of her raising a glass. Worse, on the night in question she checked into five bars.”

6. Present a Professional Persona: Ironically, one of the biggest errors people make is to overlook the opportunity social media offers them to elevate awareness of their personal brand. According to CareerBuilder’s annual social media recruitment study:

52% of employers research applicants online. Within that group, 60% look for information supporting the candidate’s qualifications; an additional 56% want to see a candidate’s professional online persona.

7. Use Good Grammer, err — Grammar: Learn your homophones! Your and you’re mean different things as do their, they’re, and there. Conversely:

37% of employers in CareerBuilder’s recruitment study  reacted favorably when they discovered that a candidate had great communication skills; 38% were further impressed when a candidate’s social media presence conveyed a professional image.

Writing well can influence your success and position you for professional achievement — in spite of (or perhaps because of) everyone embracing emojis and txt speak.  If you are not convinced, consider the results of a Grammarly study of 100 LinkedIn profiles as explained in a Harvard Business Review article:

“Professionals with fewer grammar errors in their profiles achieved higher positions. Fewer grammar errors correlate with more promotions.  Fewer grammar errors associate with frequent job changes.”

If you’re looking to improve your written communication skills please read the following “5 Ways to 5 Ways to Improve Your Business Writing” and start “writing gooder!”

1. Cut the Clutter: Embrace editing and remove extra words; be mindful of filler words like “very” — they add nothing to your writing.

2. Start Sentences with Verbs: Using verbs to being your sentence makes them active and actionable; get to the point and give your readers a clear idea what you want them to do.

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3. Use Bullets: Business is about doing not about reading; it is not a narrative! Condense your writing and write with bullet points; start your bullet points with verbs and you can move mountains with your memos!

4. Organize for Readers Eyes: Break up your writing into smaller sections; use section headings to make your writing clearer. Remember that we read with our eyes; how your writing looks is as important as what your writing says.

5. It’s About You: No, not you — them: the people reading what you’re writing. Borrow a classic marketing approach and use lots of “you” and “yours” in your business writing. This engages your reader and connects them to your communication.

When you first hear the phrases “Miami Heat” and “Oklahoma City Thunder” do you think someone is talking about the weather?

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If you do, you would be wrong. As right as that might sound, you would be wrong: On Tuesday, June 12, 2012 the NBA Finals will feature the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder (formerly the Seattle SuperSonics) vying for the title.

Full Disclosure: I am a Boston Celtics fan so, since the Heat beat them to advance to the Finals, I am rooting for the Thunder (my enemy’s enemy is my friend). Coincidentally, last year I was also rooting against the Heat and for the Dallas Mavericks (due to my virtual acquaintanceship with Brian Cuban, brother of the team’s owner, Mark Cuban). Maybe I am just not a fan of “heat” in general?

Allegiances aside, as a teacher and writer the aspect to this match-up I find most fascinating is both team names are what is called a “collective noun.”

According to Grammar Girl, collective nouns — of which there are approximately 200 that take a singular or a plural verb — are “nouns that describe a group, such as ‘family,’ ‘orchestra,’ and ‘board.'” Another source further explains “collective nouns, a special class, name groups [things] composed of members [usually people].” Interestingly, Americans generally treat them as single units (e.g. “the faculty is meeting today”), but in England, they are considered plural (e.g. “Cambridge are winning the boat race.”).

According to another source: “the names of sports teams, on the other hand, are treated as plurals, regardless of the form of that name.” Therefore, you would write “the Boston Red Sox are the best baseball team in the world” and not “the Boston Red Sox is the best baseball team in the world” (another disclosure: I am a Red Sox fan). Likewise, when you refer to a team by the city in which it is located, you use the singular form of the noun (e.g. “New York is attempting to sign two assistant coaches Boston hopes to keep.”

Is there are a finite number of traditional plural nouns after which you can name a team? There seems to be a growing trend towards sports teams using names that are collective nouns. Teams from various U.S. professional sports leagues — Arena Football League (AFL), Major League Soccer (MLS), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL), Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) — and a few noteworthy college teams whose names are collective nouns include:

  • Atlanta Dream (WNBA)
  • Chicago Fire (MLS)
  • Chicago Rush (AFL)
  • Chicago Sky (WNBA)
  • Colorado Avalanche (NHL)
  • Columbus Crew (MLS)
  • Connecticut Sun (WNBA)
  • D.C. United (MLS)
  • Georgia Force (AFL)
  • Harvard Crimson
  • Houston Dynamo (MLS)
  • Indiana Fever (WNBA)
  • Kansas City Command (AFL)
  • Miami Heat (NBA)
  • Minnesota Wild (NHL)
  • Montreal Impact (MLS)
  • New England Revolution (MLS)
  • New Orleans VooDoo (AFL)
  • New York Liberty (WNBA)
  • Oklahoma City Thunder (NBA)
  • Orlando Magic (NBA)
  • Philadelphia Soul (AFL)
  • Phoenix Mercury (WNBA)
  • Pittsburg Power (AFL)
  • Seattle Storm (WNBA)
  • Spokane Shock (AFL)
  • Stanford Cardinal
  • Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL)
  • Tampa Bay Storm (AFL)
  • Tulsa Shock (WNBA)
  • Utah Blaze (AFL)
  • Utah Jazz (NBA)

I am not a grammar expert, despite my having earned a BA in English from UC Santa Barbara. However, having been writing since as far back as I can remember, I have a feel for “good” grammar. And, while collective nouns might be perfectly proper, they always sound awkward to me as team names.

From a branding perspective, these types of team names sound odd. I believe a team name simply sounds better as a standard plural noun. Maybe I am “old school” but then again, if you look at the preponderance of team names that are collective nouns they are frequently newer organizationserhaps.

Maybe I am the only one — or one of very few — who noticed this trend towards collective nouns in team names, but it nevertheless strikes me as something about which a discussion is at least relevant.

Speaking of Grammar: regardless of whether or not you are not a fan of either team in this year’s NBA Finals, consider watching the 2000 movie Company Man. According to Wikipedia, the plot of the film is as follows:

In the 1960s, Alan Quimp is a school teacher of English grammar and married with the very demanding woman Daisy Quimp. In order to avoid the constant mockery in Daisy’s family, Alan says that he is a secret CIA agent. Daisy tells everybody, the CIA acknowledges the lie, but due to a coincidence, Alan has just helped and hidden the professional Russian dancer Petrov who wanted to leave Russia. The CIA decides to hire Alan as an agent, to get the credits of bringing Petrov to USA, and immediately decides to send him to a very calm place, Cuba.

A humorous, grammar-laden scene from the film follows — enjoy:

So, in regards to (with regard to?) the information above, who (whom?) do you want to win the 2012 NBA Finals?