Every social media interaction and every piece of information about yourself in the online world – likes, tweets, +1s, comments, blog posts, a photo tag or video of yourself shared on social media – can influence people’s perception about you. Yes, your online reputation precedes you. It’s at anyone’s mercy (especially yours!), and it can have negative consequences for you in the real world.
You’re being interviewed for your dream job. You’ve successfully passed the first stages and now it’s time for a chat with the big boss. You’re still a bit dizzy from last night’s party, but it doesn’t matter. The success you’re going to achieve in the next five years unravels before your eyes and makes you grow wings of excitement and professional charm. You’re definitely going to sweep your future boss off his feet. As you go on about your achievements, he nods and seems rather intrigued. But suddenly, he starts looking at something on his computer. He starts frowning. Did you say something wrong? He looks at you and says: “Great party you went to last night. You’re quite a party animal”. You start thinking – wait, how does he know? Oh, Facebook! But you didn’t post photos nor did you check in from the party venue. Maybe one of your friends did – and your profile is public! He goes on, visibly not pleased, saying: “And your Facebook posts and comments are rather… out there”. Oh that Facebook Timeline! You start panicking. This is not good. A couple of hours after the interview you receive a call from the company recruiter telling you they’ve decided to go for another candidate. Your dreams are shattered. Your life, it seems, is ruined.
You might think that would never happen in real life. But it does. Many employers these days are using social media to screen candidates and even monitor employees’ online behaviour. So your online reputation is something you might want to consider revising.
Don’t be the person in the scenario above. Just follow these 5 simple steps to control your online reputation:
- 1. See what the web says about you.
You’ve probably Googled yourself at least once by now. Do it again. On a regular basis. Search for your name, nickname and usernames on search engines. Don’t forget Twitter, other social networks and the sites you frequent. Look at every comment you’ve written, every photo you’ve posted or you’ve been tagged in on social media and video associated with your name. This might be time consuming but it’s worth your while. If you’ve found a compromising piece of information about yourself, chances are a prospective employer will find it just as easily.
- 2. Ponder every word associated with your personal image.
After doing thorough research on your online presence, try to think how others perceive you based on your findings. And if there are comments you’re not comfortable with, delete them; if you think certain photos of you put you in a bad light, remove them; if you’re tagged in compromising photos, remove the tag and ask the friend who tagged you to remove the photo as well. Also, review your likes and interests. If you’re not really sure what types of information could be considered “compromising”, do the “granny test” – would you want your grandmother to see the photo/read the post or comment? No? Then get rid of it.
- 3. Take proper action – redeem yourself.
Now that you’ve “cleaned” your online image, keep it that way. Use common sense when interacting and sharing stuff on social media, and do not reveal too much personal information. For example, you might reconsider checking in every time you go to your favourite club. Not only can this paint the wrong image of you with a prospective employer, but also can draw stalkers’ attention and at risk your physical privacy and/or security. Also, it’s best you separate the personal from the professional and create different profiles.
- 4. Adjust privacy settings.
Check out the privacy settings of every social network you have an account with and read their privacy policies carefully to know what to expect. Turn your profiles from Public to Private (if you haven’t done that already), decide who can see your profiles, who can comment on your posts, and block unwanted access. There have been cases of employers asking their employees/potential hires for their Facebook credentials. Clearly, this is a huge privacy violation (read Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities). If you’re ever faced with a similar situation, do not hand over your credentials. Moreover, it’s best you learn how to protect your online accounts from internet security threats such as hacking.
- 5. Set in place alerts for every time your name is mentioned online.
That may sound like vanity or egocentrism, but in this case vigilance goes a long way in helping you “save face” in the online environment. To get real-time alerts of what’s posted about you on the web and hence take immediate action, you can use some free online monitoring like:
Has your online reputation ever caused you trouble? What other monitoring tools would you recommend for interested folks out there?