Spring Cleaning Your Online Presence

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In today's digital age, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to your online reputation. Just like your home or office, your online presence needs a spring cleaning to get rid of old unwanted items, brush the dust off what's valuable, and make sure there are no surprises lurking in places you don't see every day.

What kind of surprises? An article in Adweek explains how your identity can be mistakenly confused with someone who has committed a crime, which can make it difficult or even impossible to find a job.

Most likely, you’ll find outdated descriptions of your skills and work, which can make you sound out of touch and ill-equipped for today’s workplace. There also may be some old photos from your younger days that don’t support the image you want to project as a serious job candidate.

A Spring Cleaning Checklist

Unlike cleaning your garage or attic, cleaning your digital presence is simple if you follow these steps:

1. Use Google Incognito to see what other people see of your identity online. If you search for your name using a normal Google search, it’s more likely to bring back results based on the sites you frequently visit. Incognito shows you a more objective, unfiltered view when you search your name.

A helpful tip: Put quotation marks around your name to get more targeted results, so “Susie Q. Smith” won’t pull up every Smith on the Internet. Adding the city you live in (or lived in) can also help refine the search.

2. Be sure to search for your name in conjunction with all commonly used social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and especially LinkedIn. If you run a business, include Yelp, YP, and popular review sites for your industry.

3. If you see any negatives, the best way to approach them depends on the platform. For example, you can:

  • Untag your name from unflattering or silly photos or posts on Facebook.
  • Request that a friend remove content from Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram that was acceptable years ago, but now feels embarrassing.
  • Make sure your job description and level of experience are up to date on LinkedIn.
  • Counter negative information on Google with new, positive information, such as blogs, with your byline. As a Forbes article on reputation management made clear, once negative information drops off the first page of search results, it’s not likely to be seen by someone searching for you.
  • If you discover someone (such as a former disgruntled employee or an unethical competitor) has maliciously set up fake profiles to defame you online, the website Lifehacker has helpful tips for addressing this.
  • Don’t Wait for Spring to Roll Around

While you don’t need to do your spring cleaning every day, there are certain daily steps you can take to stay on top of your online presence:

  • Set up Google Alerts so you will know if anything shows up on the internet with your name on it.
  • Check your Facebook privacy settings so your personal family moments won’t be shared publicly unless you choose that option.
  • Set up notifications for Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram, so you will know if someone comments on your posts, mentions your username, endorses you, or recommends you online.

Your online footprint and reputation play an increasingly important role in determining your personal and professional success. Don’t take them for granted and find out today what’s being said about you or your business.

Alyssa Chumbley is vice president of Express Employment Professionals.

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