It’s the Internet age. Who do you want to be? As it turns out, you have choices. Take a look at these tips on how to brand yourself in the age of social media. Making a conscious, informed decision about what kind of Internet user you want to be will save you from potential embarrassment and disappointment down the road.
What goes in the cloud, stays in the cloud
It’s a truism of the digital world we live in: adding information to the ‘cloud’ is easier than removing it.
Automated archive robots at archive.org are hard at work every day keeping a record of what was online in the past, with the goal of never losing data. Newspaper archives now stretch back to the early 1990s and most websites no longer delete old content, leaving it live for Google to retrieve at a moment’s notice.
As editor of my college newspaper, I often receive requests from alumni to remove certain information from our newspaper’s archives. Our ethics policy disallows such action in order to promote our newspaper as a community paper of record, but the onslaught of such requests acts as a reminder that what goes online really does not go away anytime soon.
Take a proactive approach
Taking a proactive approach to your online presence is crucial as employers increasingly Google first, interview later.
Google is the gateway to first impressions. Ideally, you should be the only person who appears in the top ten results in that search, giving others a positive impression of your work.
There are many ways to do this. The easiest is to own a website, although avoid vanity. A clean website that tells a bit about you and some well written, researched and edited blog posts or articles would be great.
Avoid poor representations of your work. Journalists should avoid professional or ethical quandaries such as mixing opinion and news writing, artists should only post their best work and employees should avoid negative comments about current and past employers.
Use social media responsibly
Opening a LinkedIn account and choosing a recognizable user name will help you gain visibility on the web. On the other hand, Facebook and Twitter can work against you. Never post anything you wouldn’t want your boss to see and always attend to privacy settings.
American resumes do not often include pictures, due to the possibility of discrimination. But no one will know if an employer takes a look at your online photos. Keeping this in mind, avoid posting pictures on the Internet that give a negative impression of yourself or your work.
News stories and the press
On the off chance that the media comes knocking on your door, possibly because you won the Lifesmarts competition, speak as though every sentence you say could be a quote because every sentence could in fact be a quote. This includes high school or college newspapers. Even if you support an opinion that could be considered controversial, think to yourself, should I share such an opinion and if I do share it, am I ready to be defined by this opinion on an Internet search?
Avoid at all costs
Whatever you do, remember that when you publish something publicly, anyone can see it, so proofread everything and avoid spelling and grammatical mistakes.