I continue to be amazed by the number of anemic profiles there are on LinkedIn, how easy it is to access Facebook activity that’s not intended for the public, how many people have no filter and/or no sense of time and place when they post on Twitter, and how uncivil people can be when commenting on news articles and blog posts. Not much surprises me anymore, but the opportunities to wonder “What were they thinking?” seem never-ending…
Given my focus on digital rookies, I’m particularly intrigued by people who are so fastidious about their personal appearance and “real world” reputation but show virtually no regard for their appearance or reputation in cyberspace. They seem oblivious to the fact that they have a digital identity whether they want one or not – and more importantly, that in many respects their digital identity and brand are much more public and powerful than how they’re known and perceived in the physical world.
To drive home the point of how important it is for professionals to take responsibility for their digital presence, I’ve started using analogies like leaving the house without any pants on; wearing torn, stained, disreputable, or inappropriate clothes; being unkempt; and having a hairstyle, glasses, and other accessories that are out of date. And to address the frequent lament of “I don’t have time,” I highlight the time we make to do things that are important to us, like going to a hair stylist or the gym, or shopping for clothes and shoes. The point is that if we can make the time to take care of our physical appearance and put our best foot forward on earth, we should also be able to make the time to take care of our digital appearance and put our best foot forward in the cloud.
In this post I extend those analogies by laying out the basic steps and tasks in a digital make-over. Although the recommendations are primarily targeted to rookies, the suggestions should be useful to people who are more digitally sophisticated and engaged as well. We can all benefit from a little closet cleaning…
Even if you don't need a digital make-over, you probably know someone who would benefit from these recommendations. : ) Feel free to share!
1. Conduct internet searches on yourself. What to do:
What to look for:
2. Evaluate your public profile on social media platforms. What to do:
What to look for:
3. Get someone else to critique specific accounts/activity.
Whom to ask: Identify someone you trust to give you an honest opinion, even if that opinion might make you a bit uncomfortable or hurt your feelings. Finding someone with whom you could do a quid pro quo exchange is not only mutually beneficial, but you’re likely to get a better sense of what you should/shouldn’t do based on your review of their accounts/activity in addition to their feedback on yours.
What to do: Identify the platforms/activity you want them to concentrate on. For most people that would be LinkedIn and Facebook. People who are more digitally engaged may also want to include platforms like Google Plus, Twitter and blogs.
What to look for: Basically they’re going to look for the same things you did in the previous step, only they can be more objective and are likely to spot things you miss. They can also better identify things that might be viewed as questionable by people who don’t know you.
1. Delete risky content when/where you can.
2. Board up digital properties you no longer use.
3. Lock the doors that need to be locked.
4. Make sure your front porches are presentable. Update your public profiles to address all the problems you identified during your review.
5. Direct people to the “right” you, and make yourself easy to find. Designate a hub or home base for your digital identity (e.g., your LI profile or a website). Make sure that hub includes current contact information (i.e., email address and/or phone number) and links to all your relevant digital presences.
1. Think before you tweet, comment, update, blog, etc. The best way to manage a strong positive digital reputation is to not put anything out there that you will later regret. And the best way to do that is to be mindful of what you share and where you share it, to choose words and images carefully, and to remember that even though most digital activity is fleeting, it’s also permanent.
2. Set up internet search alerts at regular intervals. Using an engine like Google, set up regular alerts using the same criteria you used in your initial review. This way, you’ll be notified whenever some cyber activity is connected to your identity. Keep in mind, though, that these automatic searches aren’t perfect, so you should plan to supplement them with periodic manual searches.
3. Keep a current inventory of your digital properties. Create a list of all the places you have accounts and update it whenever you join a new platform. This list may not be necessary for the accounts you use all the time, but it is vital in helping you remember the accounts you set up but never return to or stop using. It’s amazing how many digital stakes you can put in the ground and then forget about…
4. Review and clean up your digital inventory periodically. At least once a year, determine whether you want to continue to maintain specific accounts, especially those you rarely/never use. Doing so will minimize the digital detritus you leave behind.
5. Review and update your public profiles. Even if your professional circumstances haven’t changed, it’s worthwhile to take a look at your public profiles at least once a year to make sure you continue to be satisfied with how you’re presenting yourself in cyberspace – and to take appropriate action when you’re not.
6. Choose your friends wisely. We all have different rules about whom we connect with, but it behooves us all to be discriminating about the company we keep in cyberspace. Develop a set of connection rules and adhere to them consistently.
You can find a condensed, more visually-oriented version of these tips on our SlideShare channel.