Why You Should Clean Up Your Social Media Profiles – and How to Do It.

Posted March 30, 2015 by
Lisa Green photo

Lisa Green

The growth of social media has turned our focus online and made digital friendships, statuses and profiles just as valid as ones that exist in “real life.” Though there are countless advantages to a fleshed-out online presence, there are also real and unfortunate downsides, particularly to those who are on the hunt for a new career.

The Search is On.

It has become common practice for companies that are hiring to use whatever resources they have available to them to choose the best candidate for a position. This can include requesting LinkedIn profiles along with resumes and using search engines to ferret out information about an applicant.

Businesses are also hiring outside screening companies to perform background checks, which can include thorough social media searches to go beyond the cursory glance of the first few links. These background check businesses are available to companies of any size, making it even harder to hide those scandalous vacation photos or that plea to your ex to take you back.

An Elephant Never Forgets – and Neither Does Google.

But while you might have blocked out these embarrassing social media don’ts, Google unfortunately has not. Search engines index everything with your full name attached to it and, with privacy settings often in flux, the information available to even the most casual searchers can cost you a position.

To make matters even worse, any changes you make might not show up immediately. This means that if you’ve submitted a resume, it might be too late to save yourself from a shameful search result appearing under your name.

Privacy Is a Relative Term on the Internet.

It’s important to know what platforms will give what information away without your knowledge. For example, Facebook allows people to see your tagged and posted photos as well as your friends. The photos are also not in chronological order, meaning that Halloween photo might be the first one your potential employer sees.

Speaking of photos you might not want seen, if you do not have your account hidden, there are multiple sites that can display your Instagram profile for anyone to see. Your Twitter account is also available for scrutiny, and Google will not only show your unattended Google+ profile, but also your YouTube account, putting your likes and subscriptions out for all to see.

Even profiles you might not use anymore or forgot you made, such as Foursquare, Soundcloud or Etsy profiles, can be found within the first two pages. Plus, if the searcher is particularly curious, profiles from the depths of the Internet can be unearthed, which means your LiveJournal, xanga, Blogspot, Angelfire or Myspace accounts can come back to haunt you.

Cleaning Up Your Online Act

The good news is that there is hope for your online persona, though it will take some work. By dedicating a few hours and following a few simple steps, you can easily turn your digital footprint from pathetic to professional.

Know your settings.

Privacy settings not only vary from platform to platform, but also can change regularly on certain social media sites. Facebook has multiple levels of privacy, so it’s best to go through every option and ensure that only your friends can see your posts and pictures.

It’s also best to make sure that your profiles are unsearchable. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest all offer options to make your profile private or unsearchable, which is the best option while you are job hunting. If you like projecting to a larger audience, you can make your profile public again after being hired – but still make sure to make your posts.

However, certain profiles should be made easy to find. Your LinkedIn profile can serve as an expanded resume, so spend some time on this page, adding connections and information to move the page up in the search options.

Dig deep in your search.

Once you handle your frequently used platforms, you need to start thinking outside of the box. After all, a thorough employer might check beyond the first page of Google, so make sure to look over the first few pages as well the images and news sections to find any other potentially damaging information.

This data can pop up from unusual places. For example, applications that you’ve allowed access to your Facebook or Instagram might display old content in a search, so it’s a good idea to revoke permission to any applications that you aren’t using.

Don’t be afraid to delete.

Some people can feel sentimental about taking down certain aspects of a profile, but this attachment can be what gets these people in trouble. Don’t hesitate to deactivate old, embarrassing or unused accounts so that any search on you is current.

Also, make sure to delete any posts or photos that are inappropriate and can’t be hidden under a privacy setting. It is also a good idea to untag pictures that aren’t flattering or contain any questionable activity.

Use outside resources.

While your own investigative skills might be thorough, there is always a chance that you miss something. This is why it’s a good idea to invest in an external program to troll the Internet for your personal stamp.

One great option is a company called Persona. Offering a free and a paid version, this software will not only go over your past posts to ensure that you are projecting a clean image, but also monitor your future posts to keep you professional.

Don’t Dirty Up Your Hard Work.

Once, you’ve cleaned up your online act, it’s important to ensure that it stays that way. Before posting anything in the future, be sure to ask yourself if will cause you any future embarrassment if your boss (or mother) saw it. If the answer is yes, it’s a good idea to keep that photo or comment to yourself.

Lisa Green is a single mother to an opinionated princess, working full-time in office management while also writing articles on background screening, leadership, job hunting advice, and DIY tips. You can find Lisa on Google+.

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