As my good friend Titilayo Tinubu would say, “You, my friend, are a brand.” I've learned most of what I know about creating and cleaning up my "brand" from her. Along with her valuable advice, this is what I've gathered about online footprints and controlling your brand.
Anyone who’s anyone in sports, politics, hollywood, and virtually all other career fields hire Public Relations Specialists, Brand Managers, Media Relations Experts, etc. to ensure that their brand and reputation are protected. Like you, I can’t afford to hire any of those folks, but there are many ways we can build our brands and reputations that are virtually cost-free. Now, I know not all of you are trying to become the next President Barack Obama (and why not?), but as we are all still young and just starting out, we are in the best position to start creating our brands and an online footprint that is in our complete control.
Here are quick and [virtually] free ways you can control your online footprint and start building your brand:
1) Google yourself. Did you find something you don’t like? See if you can take that information down yourself or email the owner of the site and ask them to take down the content.
2) Clean up your online profiles. Yes, especially Facebook. Despite the privacy settings provided by the website, you still cannot afford to have trails of pictures and posts that you know you’ll regret having in a public space later. If you can handle it, take down some of your online profiles that are now redundant (I mean, is anyone really on MySpace or Friendster anymore?). Trust me, as interesting as your lunch may have seemed yesterday, it doesn’t need to be posted on three different online profiles. Delete pictures and posts from your profile that are potentially damaging. Have a profile that will make you proud! Feel a little hesitant about losing some of your photos? Don't panic: there’s a way for you to get a copy of EVERYTHING you’ve ever posted and all the photos you were tagged in on Facebook before you go on a deleting spree (and just as an aside, the fact that Facebook has an archive of all these information you have on your profile should serve as an impetus to clean up your online footprint now):
Step 1: Click on the little thingamajig at the top right corner of your Facebook page and click "Account Settings".
- Create a LinkedIn Profile. This will serve two purposes: to have your name out there for employers who may be searching for someone in the industry you’re interested in, and to list all of the experiences you have that you may not be able to fit in your resume. (More information on building a resume that works later. But in short, you shouldn’t have everything you’ve ever done in your resume, only experiences relevant for the specific employer you’re applying to).
- Create a Personal Website. I found this to be fairly easy to do and it's free unless you buy the domain name instead of having a host website (buying the domain name costs only a little over $10 per year). Websites like about.me and flavors.me make it easy to create an online website and unify your online presence. I personally use weebly.com as it allows me more freedom to design my page, add HTML codes, and use a domain name I had paid for at GoDaddy. When I was doing my job search, my good friend Titilayo Tinubu, JD Job Coach extraordinaire suggested that I create a personal website to make it easier for my networks to pass on my information - instead of sending them an attachment of my resume, I can just send them to my personal website where I have my resume posted. Here's what Titilayo has to say about creating a personal website:
- Even if you have your resume posted on LinkedIn, a personal page is a way to take even more control over your Google reputation.
- To understand why, let me give you a little insight into how Google works. Google will rank a site high up in its search results if that site is a reputable or popular site or if the site is not popular but other popular sites link to it. I know, it’s like high school all over again.
- If you create a personal site, and you place links to that site on your Twitter page, Facebook page, and LinkedIn page, over time your personal site will start to rank high in Google search results because Google gives preference to sites that are connected to popular sites.
- You can create a personal page using several different platforms. One of my favorites is Weebly because it’s free and easy to set up if you’re not familiar with coding. So hop on over and create a personal page.
- As I would not give you advice that I wouldn’t take myself, feel free to Google my name: Kate Nicole Blanco. You’ll find that the first search result is my personal website. The second result is my LinkedIn profile and just a couple of results later are my profile as a Dispatcher for Jeepney Hub, and my Twitter account. If a potential employer were to do a search of me, I can be certain that most, if not all, of the information they’ll find about me are within my control. It’s a way for me to track my own online footprint. Can you follow the trail of your own online footprint?
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