Are you aware of what you look like online? Would you say you have a positive reputation in your social media posts? Your success is at stake, from college applications to consideration for high-end promotions that are years down the road.
More than ever, the first impression you deliver to job recruiters, potential business partners, and even new friends is going to be online instead of in person. Many HR departments are now required to use social media to screen candidates for a good cultural fit.
It’s not just your future that’s at stake. Negative posts from years ago can be cause for you to lose your current job. It’s becoming more common to see headlines about high-ranking employees at companies like Disney and Teen Vogue getting fired for insensitive posts made in the past. Times change and so do people. You’re older and wiser now, so don’t wait for your past to catch up to you. In just four steps, you can manage your social media reputation to create a more positive personal brand.
Step 1: Audit your social media accounts
Even your oldest posts can come back to haunt you. You might have an old account on a forgotten social media service, but if it shows up in a search of your name, it still has the potential to damage your reputation. Put yourself in the shoes of a job recruiter and do some online sleuthing of your own name, aliases, and even retired gamer tags. Dig up your old accounts and delete all that are no longer relevant or positive.
Posts and pics of anything that could be labeled inappropriate should be deleted. If you have photos or comments that reference bigotry, drugs, sex, sexism, racism, or have an insensitive nature, they can ruin your reputation.
Don’t just look through your own published content — look through the photos and posts in which you’ve been tagged by friends and family. If you can’t delete a bad photo, you should be able to remove your tag or ask that person to delete the photo for you.
Step 3: Ask a trusted friend
Sometimes it’s hard to realize what kind of content can be damaging. Polarizing topics like politics and religion can be taken the wrong way if they are read out of context by someone with a different point of view. Get a second opinion of your posts from someone you trust, but whose opinions differ from yours.
Step 4: Lock it down
Your online privacy might not be as private as you think. Double-check your privacy settings to limit the amount of content about you being picked up by search engines and social media sites. Everything you publish online should be positive, but even if you think it’s neutral, that doesn’t mean someone important to your future agrees with you.
It’s important to protect yourself from unwanted and outdated negative content. When you take control of what people see when they search for you online, you control more of your own destiny.