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Featured Article: Do You Need To Clean Up Your Act?



by Shafik Mansur -
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“Unless you are a trust fund baby, or maybe a honey badger, you probably care very much what people think about you and the impression that you make when people meet you.„






 You may be a well respected professional in your community, a college student nearing graduation or perhaps a small business owner trying to grow your business and network, your future success is very likely going to be influenced to a large degree by those immediate impressions that prospective customers or employers have when they interview you or inquire about your services or product.

Finely crafted resumés and well polished LinkedIn pages are very important, but what do you look like on Facebook? or in a Google search? Have you been tagged in photos on your friends’ pages at a party where things may have gotten a bit wild? Are there posts directly attributable to you that reveal your intense dislike for another person or company? Or perhaps you have been active in web forums posting on controversial topics? Are there photos or even videos of you that show you in a less than professional manner?

 In the increasing flurry of participation in social media, and the often unrestrained sharing of personal information, photos, videos, thoughts, reactions and general commentary, some people are forgetting one critical thing…what happens on the Internet, stays on the Internet.

Just about everything that you blog about, comment on, or post online lingers in digital vaults ready to reemerge at the command of the correct search term! A recent survey by CareerBuilder.com shows that 53% of employers use social networking sites to screen candidates as part of the hiring process. You can rest assured that your customers and clients are doing the same before engaging you and your services and products.

 Now, before panic sets in, there are steps that you can take to remove the unsavory items that people may be finding and there are methods to reduce the chances of again being victim of a bad online reputation. In short, you need to clean up your act using the three step process of Repair, Restrict and Replace.

 First things first, do a simple Google search for your name with quotation marks at the beginning and end to restrict the search parameters to just your name. Then try searches using any easily identifiable user names that would be a quick match for your real name. Do the same using Bing and Yahoo searches as well. If there are any questionable or negative results about you coming up in searches, then you start the first step which is repair.

Repair...

If the items are coming from your own social media pages then it is simply a matter of deleting them at the source. Be aware that this will not make the items disappear from the search engines’ caches immediately. It can actually take weeks and sometimes months before search results are updated after the offending image or questionable posts have been deleted.

Now if you are finding images, posts and references on other people’s pages, then you will need to make contact with the person that has posted the items or has administrative control over the content and request that it be removed. If you have difficulties with this, there are legal actions that can be taken to force the removal of unauthorized photos or content from other person’s sites.

You should also do searches within the social networking sites that you are active on to scan for any posts, images or references there. You may also need to take a hard look at the “friends” that you may have on your pages and whether their own public images or content might be detrimental to your goals. While you can control what you are putting out so far as your personal image, you cannot control what others are doing. Sometimes difficult decisions have to be made about removing people from your social media pages unless you have effectively segregated your networks into private and public groups.

My niece who is now a few years into her corporate career was shocked when a Google search revealed her full name on several posts on some of her relatives and friends' Myspace pages and her pictures had been tagged there with her name. While there was no harmful information directly about my niece on these pages, her friends' Myspace pages were quite an affront to decency in terms of lewd graphic content and degrading depictions of women. Her full name and her own pictures were coming up in searches and linking directly back to the other parties' pages. The sad part was that due to her lack of understanding of the power of personal branding at that time, there was no other information being found in searches that reflected her true identity, professional credentials or professional image.

Fortunately, she was able to have her name removed from the offending pages. She then deleted all the content and personal information off her own forgotten Myspace page, then she deleted that account. In short, it is a good idea to use an alias for your private social networking pages where only those people whom you know well can be part of the conversations and where your privacy settings are on high to prevent these occurrences. In addition, be aware of how others may judge you based on your friends and acquaintances even if they are just online friends.

Restrict

So now that you have completed the repair process, you take steps to prevent unwanted personal content from reaching the search engines again. This is the restrict phase. The goal here is to prevent having to do another big clean up in the future. All social media sites provide varying levels of privacy controls to restrict what information is being made public or available for searching.

Your goal is not to make yourself invisible, but rather to restrict what can be seen publicly by other parties and who can post on your pages. Once your clean up has been completed, you should lock down your privacy settings on Facebook, MySpace or other social media sites that you use to prevent image tagging by others and having your wall posts unrestricted. You may wish to restrict some photos to only friends, while leaving others open for the public. The desired outcome is to allow searchers to see that you are a normal, interesting, well rounded person with friends and activities, not some Unibomber crackpot or a exhibitionist barfly.

Replace

The final step is replace, here you are going to take a very strategic effort to replace all the images and online content that you have now removed with fresh new digital content that reflects your personal brand, that image of you that you want the world to see and the one that will make you the successful person that you want to be. This is a really important stage and one that should be done whether you had to repair or not, and it’s also the part that I enjoy the most when working with our clients at Redberry Designs, because you are going to be getting pictures taken, you will be making videos, writing about yourself and creating that dynamic online persona that reflects the image that you want the world to see.

  1. You have to take the reins and show the search engines who you are. You will first go and get your own web domain in your own name, then proceed to register your own Facebook name, your own Twitter name, YouTube channel name, LinkedIn name…etc.
  2. Then create a Google profile that highlights you, your skills, talents, professional achievements and then link all of your new social media networking sites and your "repaired" pages to your new Google profile.
  3. Point your new web domain name to your Google profile or to the publically accessible Social Media page that best provides a complete reference, such as your LinkedIn account.
  4. Post your new professional images on new Flickr, Picassa and Photobucket accounts taking care to tag each picture with your name.
  5. Upload your new videos to YouTube also making sure that they are tagged with your name, and post your new articles on your new personal blog.
In no time at all, sometimes within a matter of an hour depending on the site you are posting to, the search engines will begin finding all the new content now online and those potential clients, customers, employers and even dates! will start seeing what you want them to see about you. Continue to check the progress of your clean up act every couple of days. You will have now effectively cleaned up your act using the three step process of Repair, Restrict and Replace.



About the Author: Shafik Mansur is CEO and Director of Marketing of Redberry Services and Redberry Designs. Redberry is an Agency that offers Branding, Website Development and Hosting Solutions and a full portfolio of business conversational marketing and brand identity solutions for small businesses. To learn more and to download FREE business tools and articles, as well as join their mailing list, visit the Redberry Services or Redberry Designs website at http://www.redberryservices.com. You may print this article for personal use or republish it online only if it is left unaltered and in its entirety, including bylines, links and author information. Contact the author for all other permissions.





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