Your reputation likely matters to you when you think of the impression you leave with friends, family, coworkers, and/ or current or future employers. One aspect that people haven’t been trained to think about, but which can be as (or more) important than how one behaves in the real world, is the trail each of us leaves online.
It used to be that email was most of our online paper trail and that could largely be protected with passwords. However, with the explosion of online profiles, social media accounts, and more, we each leave a photograph and word trail of ourselves.
Reputation Management is becoming big business. Online businesses have exploded which promise to hide negative posts or information about you and others with your same name. Do they do what they say? Sometimes. They promise to boost your personal online presentation and thus enhance your ‘brand’. Most of these companies are expensive and charge fees that start at a whopping $5,000 per year. This figure is an attempt to know their database of high-level executives, actors, and actresses, and companies. Others charge less but aren’t very comprehensive and usually don’t do much that you cannot do yourself for free.
If you don’t have five thousand dollars to spend on managing your reputation, then try the following tips.
Before you post a photo, an update, or life details, think about the person or people you don’t want to view what you’re posting. For instance, if you’re up for a new position or hoping for a raise at the job you have, consider how your employer might view photos of your drunken night out with friends or flirty, public banter on Facebook or Instagram. What about that dating profile where you include details that might link to your real-life sites? Imagine the individuals you least want seeing your online antics. If they were seeing what you post, how might that impact your life, reputation, or career? This doesn’t mean you have to censor yourself unnaturally, but that you can consider the ramifications and what will help you overall.
Don’t Assume They Aren’t Looking
It’s a fast process to search someone out online. A name, email, or a few details about you can often yield way more information and potential embarrassment than you’d think. Don’t feel a false sense of safety. Assume people are looking. They might be using businesses who review future or current employees or doing a search on their own.
Keep Your Clothes On
As the quote goes, most of the time in life you want to “dance like no one is watching” and not worry what your enemies think as your friends will understand. While those closest to you will understand, others can be more judgmental of photos of shirtless men and women in bikinis or showing a lot of cleavages. You don’t have to be a prude but think of your industry and the standards you’re expected to uphold. Teachers, for instance, have been fired for online posts.
Check Yourself First
Try a reverse photo search of yourself or look yourself up online using Social Catfish.
Many people search sites only look at a few elements and you want to look at everything you can. Look at the privacy settings if you do see something you don’t like about yourself. Most sites will allow you to remove information and links as long as you follow certain steps like sending their customer service your request via email.
It’s Not Just Content
As we said above, photos matter just as much as what you say. Moreover, what you DO matters as well. Take note if friends tag you in posts, statuses, or information you may not want to be reflective of you. Most of the time you can untag yourself, talk to whoever tagged you, and also use privacy settings to prevent future tags.
Remember MySpace? Remember old blogs you kept, dating sites, or profiles you posted your resume on? Review and delete old profiles or information that doesn’t help you give the impression you want it to.
Building Your Brand- Take It Into Your Own Hands
While having too many embarrassing or negatives online can detract from your ‘brand’, not having any online presence at all can also be deemed suspicious or less professional. If your online presence is weak, consider buying your own domain name so you can promote yourself. Second, limit how many sites you use. Third, keep your LinkedIn up to date with new jobs and skills. Join social media, but keep up to date on privacy settings and changes to those settings.
Now, get out there and be awesome!