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A recent Forbes article sparked controversy when author Kashmir Hill claimed that Facebook abstainers could be labeled “suspicious”. The debate originated in Germany when an expert suggested that not being on Facebook exposes you as a social outcast, or even a potential mass murderer. (Both Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik and Aurora, CO shooter James Holmes lacked a social media presence).
Employers, for example, use social networks to find or screen potential applicants, and without an online presence, you may be overlooked. Even worse, they may assume you’re hiding something or failing to keep up with new technology. Yet, if you don’t enjoy using Facebook, you shouldn’t force yourself into a shabby profile. (Just keep in mind that Facebook is currently recruiters’ second most popular network of choice.)
While Kashmir refers to Facebook specifically, we think the discussion is broader. We believe you should focus your attention on having an online presence–but do it in a way that makes sense for you. Find the social network you feel fits you best as a person and/or professional, and start there. There are many ways to showcase your personality, a creative video bio on YouTube or a picture portfolio on Pinterest, for example. Also, if you have a blog, or write guest blogs for other bloggers, you can easily establish an online persona that shows off your professional skills, as well as your personal interests.
Conclusion: You want to be visible online, whether it’s on LinkedIn, Facebook, a blog or any other social platform. If you find yourself shying away from social platforms, it doesn’t mean you’re predisposed to isolation or criminal behavior (we hope). It often means you just haven’t found your footing. We recommend starting with LinkedIn. Create a profile and connect with people you know to get comfortable. Once you’re familiar with one network, you will likely start dipping your toe in to test the waters of other social networks.
Whether you’re a recent graduate in search of a new job, or a working professional looking to take the next step in your career, owning and managing your online image is crucial. As we all know, anything goes online, and the sheer size of the web gives anyone with a connection access your good, bad and ugly, alike.
If you’ve come across negative information about you online, here are steps to help build yourself back up:
1. Know what’s out there, so there are no surprises.
Google your name, and take a close look at the first few pages. Since online screening has become an important part of the hiring process, it’s key to be aware of the information that’s out there about you. If you know what’s out there, you’ll be prepared to address any inquiries.
2. Be upfront and proactive.
If you do end up having to field questions regarding negative online content, take the proactive approach. Be honest about what’s being said and why, and share how you are going to respond.
3. Have it removed (or remove it yourself).
The longer you wait to remove unsavory content, the further it could spread. If you posted something inappropriate on your social media accounts, simply delete it. If someone else posted a negative comment, ask them to remove it. If the other party is unwilling to comply, consider raising the stakes and taking legal action. Also, if the damage to your reputation is substantial, consider a professional reputation management service that will help you remove content.
4. Create your own content.
Many employers will only look at the first few pages after entering your name in search engines. By posting your own content, you can help push down any negative content and showcase your own positive content. Traditional blogs, video blogs and social media profiles rank high on search engines, so create as much positive content as possible. Also, consider deleting unused accounts that might contain outdated personal information.
With vigilance and initiative, negative online content can be resolved. But it’s always a good idea to be proactive–taking steps to ensure that YOU are the one dictating your online reputation.