Though the digital era we seem to have found ourselves in can be a ton of fun, every once in a while it’s important to step back and take a look at what we may have created for ourselves. Unfortunately, those late night tweets and terribly unflattering photos (oh, you know the ones!) have a way of coming back at us. We recently had the chance to catch up with Randi Zuckerberg (yep, the infamous Mark Zuckerger’s sister, no big deal… *cue squeals*) and we obviously had to gather her thoughts on the subject! Oh, and this brainiac has just launched a fabulous book on this very topic, in case you want to learn more.
From Randi… We all know the importance of that first impression– but what about your first digital impression? I started working for Facebook in 2005 and had a front-row seat as people around the world struggled to create and define their digital identity, walking the thin line between oversharing and not sharing enough. When I started my own company, Zuckerberg Media, I knew I wanted to help people figure out how to act online and how use technology in a way that didn’t detract from their “real lives.” Enter Dot Complicated – my web community and recent book on that very subject.
Even the most careful, cautious person will eventually post or be tagged in an unfavorable photo, or tweet something they regret. I know I have. So here are my tips for protecting your online reputation– all learned through trial and error, I’m embarrassed to admit. In our digital era, hiring managers and potential dates really do check you out online first, so be sure they like what they find.
1) Beware of your “digital doppelgängers” and make sure you differentiate yourself from them.
For example, my colleague Bradley Lautenbach chooses to go by Bradley because there is already a well-known Brad Lautenbach, race car driver, who dominates search results and my colleague wanted to make sure he could stand out. Some expectant parents are even going as far as to choose names for their children based on “Googleability” — the last thing you want is someone with the same name as you running around damaging your reputation without your knowledge!
2) Remember that people will judge you not only by what you post, but by who you interact with online.
Your friends are part of your online identity! These days, people judge you not only by what you share online, but also by the company you keep. Take an extra second to think about who you accept friend requests from, across all your platforms. Tell your friends to be mindful of that when posting photos and adjust your privacy settings to let you approve photos before they appear on your profile. In addition, the pages you “like” and people you follow also show a 360 degree story of who you are.
3) Set a Google Alert for yourself.
It might seem vain to get an update every time something is published about you online, but you need to know what’s out there. A job interviewer or potential first date is going to do is Google you, so you should be aware of what they will see. While you’re at it, set Google Alerts for some of your less tech-savvy family members too, so you can let them know if you see something pop up that might warrant their attention.
4) Be proactive about cleaning up your online reputation.
If there are a few small things that aren’t career-ending, start blogging and including more links in your Twitter bio. Ask your friends to write nice blog posts about you. Create profiles on social media sites such as LinkedIn and Tumblr. By adding more content that you “control,” you help push bad results further down in Google. If the post or picture truly is career-ending and you have money to throw at the problem, you can turn to a service like Reputation.com to help you out for a hefty, but likely worthwhile, fee.
5) Keep your privates, private.
This is just a general good life lesson, people. It didn’t work for Anthony Weiner and it’s not going to work for you. While I really believe that people shouldn’t be afraid to share their authentic self online, including their hobbies, family life, and passion projects, there are just some things that don’t ever need to be uploaded, ever.