Disclaimer: this post actually isn’t for you. This article is for that one person (or multiple people) you come across online that doesn’t seem to have a filter for what information should or shouldn’t be shared to the public. I urge you to share this with them. It’s for their own good!
A few months ago a friend of mine was having a lot of trouble getting a job. She’d been to university and achieved all the qualifications required to land a great job. She’s very personable and pretty, and can do the job as good as anyone who works in the industry. But application after application she was bombing out for some reason. It was getting her down almost as much as it was baffling her as to why.
So we decided to do a Google search on her name to see what came up. First result – Facebook profile.
One click later and up popped the following:
- Profile picture of her sticking her middle finger up at the camera
- A profile vanity URL containing words often favored by Al Swearengin from Deadwood
- An unlocked profile that gave access to many a photo album of fun and very, very drunk party nights
- Unrestricted access to conversations between friends that may or may not have mentioned many four-letter words often.
To me this painted a pretty accurate picture of how I know her when we’re out having fun and partying.
To a prospective employer though – the picture it painted was quite a bit different.
A few security settings, vanity URL and profile picture change later and she had her job.
Whether or not implementing these changes influenced her new found employment, I’m unsure, but it blew my mind that online perception wasn’t even considered before applying for roles.
A quick look at Facebook’s news feed, YouTube comments and Twitter feeds proved that she wasn’t alone in thinking this way either. A lot of people were more than keen to associate insulting, offensive or sometimes aggressive comments and content to their personal brand.
So how do you prevent these ‘brand tarnishing’ social tidbits from leaking into the public domain?
Golden Rule #1 – Build Your Own Brand
Don’t let your online personality be driven purely by other people. Be proactive about how it is you want to be perceived online. Come up with a strategy and establish a strong, positive presence
Golden Rule #2 – Be aware of your environment
Is your mySpace page from 6 years ago still there? How about that blog comment you posted on back in 2004? Keep an eye on where and how you appear online. Google or Bing your name and see what pops up.
Golden Rule #3 – Outrank the bad stuff
If you do happen to find negative content online – outrank it. Publish positive content about your self. Use SEO to optimise your content and posts so as the positive content that exists online is deemed to be better quality than the negative.
Golden Rule #4 – Lock it down!
Facebook, YouTube, Google Plus, Twitter – they all have security and privacy settings that allow you to not only block out the general public from your posts, but even target your content at specific people. Perhaps you don’t want your work colleagues to see that album from your mate’s bucks night – check your settings and ensure everything is being displayed to exactly who you deem appropriate to see it.
Golden Rule #5 – Educate
Tell your family and friends about how important online reputation is and how their interactions online can affect both them and the people they associate with. Keep an eye on what people are posting. If you don’t like that photo they’ve put up or that video they’ve posted – Ask them to take it down, but also explain the reasons behind why you don’t want it online. What seems like a good ides now could really be harmful later on in life.
Golden Rule #6 – What would Nana say
Would your Nan be upset to see that photo?
What would your Nan say if she read that status update?
Would Nan be ‘disappointed’ if she were to see a video of you doing THAT?
Grandmas are a good measurement device for when you’re doing something you probably shouldn’t be. If Nan would be disappointed, perhaps it isn’t something you should make public.
Ultimately, it’s all about common sense. If you’re prepared to do something online, be prepared for it to be visible both today and years down the road. Your online reputation is not only going to be a currency of the future, it already is today. Either invest in it or prepare for it to lose its value very quickly.