by Sarah Wilkinson, Class of ’17
Regardless of what industry you want to work in, your social media presence is crucial to your professional reputation. When you’re looking for a job, and even when you’re not, people are going to Google you. It’s up to you to make sure that what they find helps rather than hurts you. 70 percent of employers say they’ve rejected a job candidate based on what they found online. Yikes!
Before we jump in, this post is part of a larger blog series based on Lindsey Pollak’s Becoming the Boss. Last week, I wrote about creating your personal brand, which leads into this week’s post about managing your online reputation. To read more about personal branding, check out last week’s post.
Step 1: Ego-Googling
The first step in cleaning up your social media accounts is to “ego-google,” a fancy term for googling yourself. The point is to look at the results that come up under your name, and in what order. Ideally, your LinkedIn page will come up first since it’s probably your most professional. No matter what, you want the first few results to represent your professional reputation well.
According to Pollak, some great results to land in your top five include:
- Your bio that shows up on your company’s website (if you have a company)
- Personal social media pages (ideally, you’re using them in a professional way)
- Your own website or blog
- A news story or some other source of information about you (so long as it’s positive)
What if you find some bad stuff, like photos with red solo cups from sophomore year?
An inappropriate social media posting can damage your professional reputation even if you are not actively job hunting. The average young worker is connected on Facebook to sixteen coworkers.
So how do you clean up your social media accounts?
Step 2: Untag
Go through your social media accounts and delete everything that isn’t professional. This could include anything that involves alcohol (especially if minors are pictured too), swim suits, sexy clothing, any racist or sexist comments, posts that are generally offensive (or may be construed that way), anything illegal. I’m talking pictures and posts/tweets both. Go through everything on every account (which could include, but isn’t limited to: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, Reddit, Google+, Pinterest, and GitHub).
In some cases, other people might have inappropriate content of you up on their social media pages. These might be pictures or posts you’re tagged in. Most of the time, you can untag yourself at the very least, but ideally you’ll want to reach out to the content owner and ask them politely to remove it.
Step 3: Check Privacy Settings
Privacy settings are constantly changing. Pollak recommends setting a reminder for yourself to check your privacy settings on all social media accounts once every few months. That way, if a site changes its policy, you will still have the level of privacy you want. The default for most social media sites is that everything you post is public to anyone, even those who aren’t friends, connections, or followers. How private you want your site to be depends on your preferences, but if you’re using social media personally rather than professionally, it’s smart to ensure your privacy settings are locked up tight.
Step 4: Create Content
If you’ve asked people to take down questionable content of you and they refuse, it’s up to you to create so much good content that the bad stuff gets buried. The idea is to attach your name to as much good stuff as possible on multiple social media platforms. Pollak recommends writing bylined reviews on Amazon, or writing articles for an industry association, a young professionals blog, or even your own blog. Another Champlain-specific option is to check out Odyssey, which is an online writing platform. It could be one way to create professionally-focused content with your name attached to it.
Step 5: Become More Active
In addition to creating more content, you also want to post more often on your social media accounts. More than just posting, though, you want to engage in conversations with other people. Share, comment, tweet at, retweet, and everything in between with people you want to connect with. One easy thing you can do is make sure you have individualized Facebook and LinkedIn URLs. For example, my LinkedIn URL is https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahlouwilkinson. It’s super easy to make your URL unique, plus it’s just one more way to attach your name to good content. Link these sites together by adding the links somewhere on your profile on both sites, like in the “contact information” section.
Warning: When You’re a Leader, People Pay Attention
As a leader – if that’s your goal – you will face heightened scrutiny. If you’re running for elected office, or trying to become an executive officer for a company, it’s important to understand that people are going to search for and use anything in your social past against you.
Some millennials have confided to me that they don’t want to seek too public a leadership role because of the nonstop scrutiny that comes with it. For the record, I deeply hope the idea of social media scrutiny doesn’t deter you from achieving your dreams and becoming a leader in our society, which desperately needs you.
If you google your name and find something really bad as a top result, something you can’t easily make go away by increasing good content on other sites, don’t panic. One option is to look into paid services that help manage your reputation, like brandyourself.com or reputation.com. These services would help you create new content that is SEO friendly and make sure these new results push the bad stuff down the list of top results.
Look out for part six of this blog series, which will focus on building a killer LinkedIn and Twitter presence.
Sources: Becoming the Boss by Lindsey Pollak; find more information about Pollak here.