Name: Chris Goddard
Nickname: The Kiwi
Occupation: Lead strategist and partner at Odd Dog Media, a Seattle based digital marketing agency.
Reason for being in America, in his own words: “I originally came to the US to finish my business degree and then returned again to work at the firm where I’m currently partner. I also had to flee socialist hellhole of New Zealand, where its poor residents are continually inflicted with the horrors of free healthcare, cheap education, and Hobbits.”
1. Customize your privacy settings
For all the controversy and debate about Facebook and privacy, the fact is, most people simply fail to use the privacy settings that are available to them.
A fair criticism of Facebook is that they have changed how you can edit your privacy settings – though some of the recent changes arguably make this process easier and more transparent. The small lock setting at the top right of your screen now gives you shortcuts to your privacy settings – “Who can see my stuff?”, “Who can contact me?” and “How do I stop someone from bothering me?” are pretty self-explanatory.
More-over, use Facebook lists. This can be a great way to filter what different friends see. I’ve always had a “Family” list and a “Business” list. People on the “Business” list can only see my basic profile information, family can see just some of my albums.
If you’re curious what people can see, click on “Who can see my stuff” and “View as” to see your public profile or your profile from a certain friend’s perspective.
2. Google yourself
There’s no better way to find out if you have a problem with your online reputation than to do a Google search for your name. If you have a common name (or the same name as someone famous), it may be more difficult for people to find about you specifically. However it usually doesn’t take an experienced searcher more than a few additional modifiers (extra search terms) to find you – like Chris Goddard Seattle, or Chris Goddard Odd Dog Media.
Search for yourself and see what you find. Many people don’t like the idea of people being able to find anything about you online – however it’s very unlikely in this day in age that you can completely avoid having any public online presence. The best thing you can hope for is to control it.
That means it’s actually better for someone to find the top 10 results all being related to you, but linking to sites or profiles that you control rather than them finding nothing and having to dig deeper to find stuff that you might not even know exists. Some employers might even get nervous about a lack of public profiles or overly private online presence (what are they hiding?).
3. Claim your accounts on all major social networks
It doesn’t mean you have to use every social network, but claiming your name or “alias” on all the main platforms is a great way to firstly; ensure that you own your name consistently across all the major networks (so someone else with your name doesn’t get it) and secondly; create more search results for your name that you control (more on this under “Google Yourself”).
A consistent alias can be a great way of building your online brand – ensuring consistency and making you easy to find.
4. Have a personal website at yourname.com (if you can get it)
People will Google you – particularly new employers. Unless you have a really common name or the same name as someone famous, it’s fairly easy to rank #1 for your name by setting up a website at yourname.com. Not everyone has the time or inclination to set up a personal blog, but a basic resume site can serve as a great way to control what people will find out when they search for you. Your website can also link to other social media profiles (the ones you want publicly available like your Linkedin) as well as any work you’ve produced or been involved in that’s available online.
If you don’t want to spend the money on a domain and website, use a service like about.me to create a personal profile page.
5. Remember the internet is forever.
You’ve probably heard the term “digital footprint”… well footprints can be washed away. Think of it more like a digital tattoo – once it’s there, it’s there forever (even a lot of time, money and pain won’t remove all traces).
Photos, video or writing that are inappropriate or that could be taken out of context can haunt you for many years after the original incident, so be careful before hitting “Share”. While it’s possible to delete stuff from your Facebook or a website you control, things can be copied on to other sites or archived by other systems.
When in doubt, err on the side of caution.
1. Post anything publicly that you would need to explain to a potential employer…
…because you probably won’t get the chance. It’s no secret the job market is tough out there, and while there are jobs, the competition for those jobs is fierce. This means that employers will find anything to whittle down the pile of applications. There may be a perfectly reasonable explanation why there’s a picture of you passed out in a gutter or dressed in a Nazi uniform online, but it’s unlikely to be one you’ll have the opportunity to share with a prospective employer – you just won’t hear from them.
2. Post the wrong thing in the wrong networks
Nothing will irritate your friends, followers or connections online more than posting inappropriate content in the inappropriate place. This doesn’t necessarily just mean posting stuff that is offensive – people who use their Facebook pages as proffor the platform.
3. Violate terms of service
This is pretty intuitive, but should still be noted: Don’t post anything contain hate speech targeted at a particular ethnicity, gender, religion or sexual orientation. Many if not most social networks have a policy against hate speech, and you could risk having your profile disabled or deleted if you pushed these boundaries. Speech might be free, but sites like Facebook are privately owned and have the right to censor whatever they want.
4. Post when you’re emotional (or drunk for that matter)
Friends don’t let friends drink and Facebook. Posting when you’re angry, upset or intoxicated might make you feel better, but it might not be in your best long-term interests. Even though Facebook posts and Tweets can be deleted, if it’s bad enough for someone to both going to the trouble to remove, it will be bad enough that it might catch someone’s eye – and it doesn’t take a genius to save a screenshot.
5. Give social media logins to prospective employers
While most of these tips have been about what you should or shouldn’t do on social media, this one is more for future employers. If a company asked me for my password, I would refuse.
While it’s hard to refuse any questions from potential employers in this economy, this disturbing trend from some employers represents not only a huge invasion of privacy, but could be a massive security risk. If I were asked by a potential employer for my Facebook password, I would politely explain that I take my online security seriously, and that sharing my password violates Facebook’s terms of service.
Moreover, this practice might open up a potential employer to discrimination cases (if the employer fails to hire me after discovering I am of a of a certain age, religion or sexual orientation). While legislation preventing this was rejected in the House of Representatives, many states are passing laws forbidding the practice (California, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware), and federal law might catch up. Be polite but firm.