Absence on Facebook = Criminal behavior?

August 30, 2012

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.

Job Seekers Beware – 9 Major Social Media Pitfalls!

June 18, 2012

Without a doubt, social media offers a variety of benefits and opportunities for job seekers. However, as much as we encourage you to take advantage of the pluses, we also want you to be aware of the potential pitfalls.

Here’s our list of the 9 major social media pitfalls to dodge during your job search:

1. Lying about your work history and qualifications

Doing this in any way, shape or form is a NO-GO! The rise of social media profiles makes it A LOT easier for potential employers to catch false information. Nobody likes a cheater! Your work experience, as shown on LinkedIn or Facebook, should match the resume that you hand to employers. Your information should be consistent across all networks.

2. Posting offensive comments anywhere social

Any use of profanity or offensive language will reflect negatively upon you, so avoid status updates and comments that could be interpreted as racist, sexist, criminal or discriminatory in any way (even if you assume that no one would take it seriously…someone could, and that someone shouldacoulda been your boss.)

3. Badmouthing a former employer, colleague, supervisor…etc.
This should be a no-brainer, but surprisingly enough, many people still air-out dirty laundry about past or current employment situations without considering the consequences. If you give someone the impression that you’ll badmouth them once you part ways, it’s unlikely they’ll even consider you. Also, beware the “I’m so bored,” or “this work stinks” posts. They reek of “lazy bum.” And, of course, revealing any snippet of confidential company information is 100% off-limits.

4. Not doing good with your grammar. (doing well!)
Yes, even with 140 characters in a tweet, using correct grammar is key! How many job postings do you see with “strong written and/or verbal communication skills” as REQUIREMENTS? These aren’t optional anymore. So don’t make a poor first impression by using subpar grammar. If your Facebook posts are consistently sporting spelling errors, incorrect usage, or odd abbreviations, potential employers don’t ignore them. Check your grammar and spelling to make sure that it’s top notch.

5. Sharing questionable pictures.
Whenever you upload a new photo, keep in mind that the wrong picture could easily go viral. Your friends might decide to share the pictures on their (public) networks. Or, even worse, they tagged you, and now all someone has to do is type your name into a search engine, and voilà… Look. At. You. Don’t let this happen. Adjust your privacy settings so prior approval of tags is required, and keep any inappropriate pictures offline (and as far away from potential employers as possible). What’s “inappropriate”? See grandma rule from former blog!

6. Venting, venting…and more venting.
We understand that there are days where you need to let off some steam, but as tempting as it may be to express your anger and frustration with 1000 of your closest friends on Facebook or Twitter, it may come back to haunt you. Think potential employers may see it as a sign of emotional instability? (Duh.) So if you’re angry or upset, give yourself time to cool off, or go to the gym and sweat it out. Never post anything in the heat of the moment.

7. Oversharing
Social networks encourage you to share information with your friends, but there are limits. One way to avoid this is to not make your online presence all about you. Share some interesting articles and videos. That way you’ll show that you have something meaningful to say other than what’s on TV tonight or what your doctor says about your intestinal problems. In short: know what to share, when to share it and with whom. Maintain a level of professional aloofness by limiting the content you upload.

8. Joining questionable groups or discussions
Who doesn’t enjoy networking with like-minded people? If you are actively searching for a job in a certain field, joining industry related discussions and groups is a great way of showing initiative and passion for a field. However, be careful about the more ‘casual’ groups you are joining. If you belong to “I don’t get drunk, I get awesome!” you might want to reconsider the talents you boast to the online universe. And, clearly, any discriminatory groups fall under the category of BAD IDEA.

9. Ignoring what everyone’s saying on your networks  
Pay attention. You probably won’t have time to check all your networks regularly (seeing how there’s a new one every week), so using a social monitoring service like Reppler will help you manage your professional online image across the different networks. With Reppler, you’ll receive instant notification if there is inappropriate content on any of your profiles. The sooner you fix the content, the better.

Graduation Time: Get Your Social Networks Job Search Ready

May 8, 2012

Happy graduation month! While there is much to celebrate, most of you are aware that the “next step” clock is ticking away. What lies ahead? What happens now?

According to a recent Associated Press article, 1 in 2 new college graduates are jobless or underemployed. And job opportunities in popular fields, including education, healthcare, fine arts and humanities are in limited supply. The highly competitive job market forces all job seekers, especially recent grads, to step up their game, and social media provides the perfect opportunity to do so.

In Reppler’s recent survey, 91% of employers said they use social networks to screen applicants. Social networks can go beyond the scope of resumes and cover letters, granting employers insights into your personality and character. These insights can help assess your compatibility with both the position and a company’s overall culture. Take advantage! Your personality, achievements and interests need to convince employers that you’re a great fit–and a wise investment.

Unfortunately, for all the benefits social media provides, you can’t ignore its dark side. Everything written or published on the web stays. According to a recent Careerbuilder survey, 34% of hiring managers find negative and inappropriate material on social networks that causes them to eliminate candidates. This material includes, but is not limited to (Hint: This is what you want to avoid!):
·         References to alcohol and drug abuse
·         Sexually explicit photos
·         Derogatory language
·         Bad-mouthing former employers/co-workers

To show our support for new graduates (and, of course, anyone else in search of a job), we’re going to be providing a series of posts around job searching with social media throughout May. Stay tuned to find out what potential employers want to see on social networks, what pitfalls to avoid and which networks to leverage in your job search.

Your Professional Online Image Has Been Tainted – What Now?

April 17, 2012

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.

Protect Your Professional Image on Facebook Timeline

February 10, 2012

On February 14th, Facebook Timeline will go live for ALL users, signaling a final departure from the traditional Facebook profile. Timeline is a visual aggregation of your Facebook History. From the book you read in 2005 to the movie you watched last month to the song you’re listening to right now, Timeline shares all.

Users need to recognize the risks involved with Timeline. Once you have Timeline, it reveals pictures, status updates and events chronologically from when you first started Facebooking to the present time. This means that people will be able to scroll through your history, potentially discovering posts or pictures you’d rather leave in the past.
Here are four simple steps to help you “clean” your Timeline—so you can continue to convey a positive Facebook image:

1. Make your profile private: Go to Privacy Settings > “How You Connect”. Switch “Who can post on your Timeline” and “Who can see posts by others on your Timeline?” from “Public” to “Friends”.

Go to Privacy Settings > “How Tags Work”. Switch the settings for “Maximum Timeline Visibility” from “Public” to “Friends.”

2. Limit your audience for past posts:  Go to “Limit the Audience for Past Posts”. Click “Manage Past Post Visibility”, then “Limit Old Post”. Now, your past posts are visible to your Friends only, even if you initially made them public.

3. Hide or delete posts:  Click on the edit button at the top of the content item and choose “Hide from Timeline” or “Delete Post”. You’ll need to click on each month and hide or delete all of those posts individually.

4. Delete posts from other Timelines: Go to “Activity Log”, click on “All” to see all of your posts, comments, likes and events, organized by date. Click on “Your Posts” to see all your posts and comments on other people’s Wall, and delete anything that could be considered inappropriate

5. Monitor your profile:  Use a monitoring service like Reppler to ensure that your profile always projects the “you” that everyone from your parents to your buddies to a potential employer should see. Set up your Reppler account so that you will be notified as soon as flagged content shows up on your profile.

If you’ve been on Facebook for a long time, “cleaning” your Timeline can be time consuming. But it’s well worth the effort!

TrustedID Acquires Reppler to Deliver Industry-Leading Reputation Management

February 2, 2012

We are excited to announce that TrustedID, an industry leader in identity theft protection, has welcomed Reppler into its family of services. Reppler’s advanced reputation management and protection services will strengthen TrustedID’s award-winning identity safeguards in the realm of social media.

According to the 2011 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report, identity theft remains the top consumer complaint. And in this digital age, we are constantly sharing personal information online–essentially granting outside access to this information.

In fact, with something as simple as your name, address or phone number, identity thieves can gain access to your Social Security number, credit cards, and more. At Reppler, we recognize that monitoring your online image across various social media accounts is a large part of identity protection, as users often unintentionally reveal information that pose reputation and security risks.

While integrating Reppler into TrustedID’s services marks the beginning of a new chapter for us, we want to ensure our users that your service will not stop. For now, you will receive the same service you’ve been using, and we will keep you updated about any further developments in the future. If you have questions or concerns, feel free to get in touch with us on Facebook.

12% of Facebook Walls Have Derogatory Language That Could Prevent Employment

July 22, 2011

Today’s NY Times has an article about Social Intelligence, a year-old start-up that scrapes the Internet to provide employers with background checks on everything prospective employees may have said or done online in the past seven years.  We have written about Social Intelligence in the past but what is particularly noteworthy about today’s article is the list of “negative information” Social Intelligence collects that could prevent a job candidate from getting an offer:

  • Online evidence of racist remarks
  • References to drugs
  • Sexually explicit photos, text messages or videos
  • Flagrant displays of weapons or bombs
  • Clearly identifiable violent activity
After seeing this list, we analyzed the profiles of around 20,000 Facebook users to see how many of them have derogatory/racist language on their Wall.  Here is what we found:
  • 12% of users have derogatory language on their Wall.
  • The number rises to 17% for users under 35 years old.
  • The number falls to 5% for users over 35 years old.
  • Of those users who have derogatory language on their Wall, 38% have used such language themselves.
  • Of those users who have derogatory language on their Wall, 81% have such language posted by a friend.

So what does this all mean?  As we have said in the past, more and more employers are screening job candidates by checking out social networking sites.  A recent survey by Jobvite indicated that 45% of hiring managers always search for candidate profiles.  Some employers are doing the screening themselves and others are using services like Social Intelligence.  This trend places the burden on individuals to monitor their online presence more closely, as inappropriate content on social networking sites, like Facebook, could damage their reputation and limit their chances of getting a job.

Manage Your Professional Reputation – Online and Offline

July 20, 2011

With more than 14 million Americans out of work and unemployment rates still on the rise, the job market remains highly competitive, so your professional reputation is as important as ever. While Reppler focuses on protecting your online image on social networking sites like Facebook, there are other areas of your life that affect your professional reputation. This article will look at reputation on a macro level to explain what information affects your employment and what potential employers are looking for.

Financial History

Many people believe that their financial history has nothing to do with their job performance, but most employers disagree. A survey by the Society of Human Resource Management in 2010 revealed that 60% of employers run credit checks on all or some applicants. Despite protests from employees, employers argue that it is just another screening tool to evaluate an employee for a job and helps to determine whether a potential employee is responsible, honest and accountable. If an applicant has a stable financial history, it is more likely that the person will stay at the job. Employers also check for fraud and dishonest financial behavior. So what can you do? Be prepared and know your credit score! Check your credit report once a year, and if an employer asks for your permission to run a credit check, be prepared to discuss any issues up-front. If you know there are imperfections in your credit report, explain the situation and don’t wait for the employer to find out.

The following site provides a free annual credit report:  https://www.annualcreditreport.com/

Public Records

Another area of interest is your public record. It’s estimated that up to 40% of resumes can contain false or tweaked information, so employers might want to verify your information to insure that what they are getting is what they were promised. Information in public records has been filed or recorded by public agencies and can be either created by the federal and local government (vital records, real estate records, driving records) or by the individual (magazine subscription, voter registration etc.). Even though most essential public records are maintained by the government, they are accessible to the public either free-of-charge or for an administrative fee.

To find out what information is on public record under your name, visit your state’s website or use a nationwide directory of online and offline public record sources such as http://publicrecords.onlinesearches.com/

Criminal Records

Employers are facilitating background checks more diligently, as negligent hiring suits are picking up and can cost the company millions of dollars. Checking driving records and criminal records is becoming a standard procedure for many employers. They are looking for information in your background that indicates a predisposition to violence or illegal activity. If you are planning on entering the job market, do a pre-screening yourself to make sure that there are no unpleasant surprises waiting in your criminal record. Just like with your financial background, it might be better to proactively address any issues in your criminal history. Being honest about it and admitting past mistakes will always work in your favor.

To pre-screen your criminal records, check online to see if your state has a criminal database on the internet. If not, you can also go to the local courthouse in which you believe you have committed a crime and access those records.

Personal (Offline) Image

Besides checking the official references provided on your application, some companies also check your reputation in their own networks. Employers might call up personal contacts in companies that you have worked for to ask for informal references, so it is important to display a professional attitude at your current job at all times. Even if the contact doesn’t have specific information regarding your job performance, he or she might have some general information about job related issues like reliability, punctuality and the way you present yourself; are you polite and friendly, or often grouchy and moody. Be aware of your professional image, not just with regard to your immediate supervisor, but also your general presence in the company.

Online Presence

Part of your professional reputation is your online presence on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and search engines like Google and Yahoo. Search for your name in Google to check what others can find out about you, and if you discover public information that could damage your reputation and limit your chances of finding employment, contact the source and ask them to remove the information. Setting up Google Alerts for your name will help you to monitor search engine results.  In 2009, a CareerBuilder survey revealed that 45% of employers employers are using social media sites to screen job applicants, so monitoring your online reputation is crucial nowadays. Before you start searching for a new job, clean up your social networking sites and your Facebook profile in particular. Remove inappropriate content from your wall, delete indecent pictures and adjust your privacy settings so that only friends can access your profile. Monitoring services like Reppler will help you to keep your Facebook image clean and safe.

Comprenez-vous le Francais? Reppler does.

June 6, 2011

When we launched Reppler in April, we were surprised by how many people from France signed up for the service.  At the same time, we felt bad because we knew all of our French-speaking users were going to be disappointed once they got into the service since we didn’t support the French language.  Well, today we are happy to announce that the Reppler service now supports French.  This support enables the Reppler service to understand posts and comments made in French on a user’s Facebook Wall and to give users feedback on the tone of the language on their Wall and potentially inappropriate content found.  For now, the Reppler website and the service’s user interface remain in English.  We are considering providing a complete French version in the future.

In retrospect, we shouldn’t have been too surprised about the interest of a service like Reppler in France.  Privacy and one’s online reputation are hot topics in France and in Europe, in general.  Since it is so easy for anonymous users to negatively affect the reputation of others, especially with online services like Facebook and Twitter, in early 2010, France considered a law that would have given users the option to have old online data about themselves deleted.  This law, known as the “right to forget” law, would have forced online and mobile firms to dispose of emails and text messages after an agreed length of time or on the request of the individual concerned.  The law didn’t pass but now there is a similar law being debated in Europe.

With such interest in this topic in Europe, we plan to support other languages, like Spanish and German, in the future.  In the meantime, we say “Bienvenue” to our French-speaking users and we welcome any feedback so that we can improve our support of the French language.

Consumer Reports Survey on Online Risks

June 1, 2011

The June 2011 issue of Consumer Reports has the results of their national State of the Net survey of 2089 online households.  The results of the survey, conducted earlier this year by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, can be found here but here are a few findings that caught our eye:

  • Roughly one in five Facebook users hadn’t used Facebook’s privacy controls.
  • Twenty-three percent of active Facebook users didn’t know some of their “friends” well enough to feel completely comfortable about their own or their family’s security or safety. An additional 6 percent admitted to having a friend who made them uneasy about those things. That means almost one in three Facebook users aren’t fully comfortable with all their friends.
  • Many active Facebook users take risks that can lead to burglaries, identity theft, and stalking. Fifteen percent had posted their current location or travel plans, 34 percent their full birth date, and 21 percent of those with children at home had posted those children’s names and photos.
  • More than 5 million online U.S. households experienced some type of abuse on Facebook in the past year, including virus infections, identity theft, and for a million children, bullying.

We believe these results validate many of the things we do with the Reppler service to help users keep their Facebook image clean AND safe.  In the area of cleanliness, we scan the entire Wall of each of our users to provide information about how they can be perceived by others and flag potentially inappropriate content.  Many people believe they don’t have to be concerned about this since they have their privacy controls in place.  As the above results show, not everybody uses their privacy controls and even for many who do, people who are practically strangers are seeing their content since they really don’t know their “friends” well.

In the area of safety, the Reppler service checks for any publicly-available information about a user on their Facebook profile that should be private, like their full birth date or their hometown, to prevent risks like identity theft.  The service also warns users of any links on their Wall that might be malicious so that they don’t fall victim to malware, spam, and other threats.

What do you think of the Consumer Reports findings?  Do they surprise you?