Manage Your Online Presence

Even when you’re among friends on Facebook with privacy settings locked, the information you post and share online has all the confidentiality of a postcard. Assume anything you post or—are tagged by—is visible to the world?at?large, and may be viewed in the job search process.

Don’t assume you are safe. Here are five strategies you can use to manage your online reputation:

1. Know what’s out there. Establish a baseline knowledge of what information is available about you online—as well as others who share your name. A great way to get started is to use the Reach Branding Online ID Calculator athttp://www.onlineidcalculator.com/index.php.

2. Monitor Your Digital Dirt

a. Set up an “Ego Search”: Establish a Google News Alert on your name so that you receive results of any mention of you (or those who share your name) that hits the Internet.  http://www.google.com/alerts

b. Untag yourself in non?flattering Facebook photos or status updates that would make your mother blush.

3. Research how other people you know with similar interests present themselves online. Finding others with similar interests, conducting informational interviews with alumni, and asking questions of current employees in your intended field can help you answer the question: What should my online presence goal be? Aim to have content on the web be “professional” not “confessional.”

4. Have a conversation with your employer about their comfort level with your online presence, find out company policies about using social media, and be conscientious: Don’t share information that reflects poorly on you or your employer. Maintain privacy and don’t go on the record with information they would not want shared.

5. Be aware that personal information can “float.” Try to keep any mention of your professional interests relatively consistent… It’s okay to go on the record saying, “I’m exploring possibilities in ___________ which I could combine my knowledge in __________ and ________. It’s less appropriate to say “I’ll do anything as long as I can live in Atlanta.”

Developing an Online Presence

You can influence your own online presence in a myriad of ways and on a wide array of platforms.

  • Social networking sites: e.g. Facebook, Linkedin, Plaxo, Twitter
  • Social Bookmarking: Share insights, initiate and participate in discussions, and “DIGG” important topics. Sites for social bookmarking include Delicious, DIGG, ShareThis, and StumbleUpon
  • Blogs: You can comment on other people’s postings, write your own as a “guest” or host your own through sites including Blogger, TypePad, or WordPress. Twitter is a popular micro?blogging site.
  • Electronic Portfolio/Personal Website: While there’s no guarantee employers will look at your personal website or online portfolio, you can create a site to showcase your skills and provide samples of your work.

Developing an online presence is a process—not a transaction. As such, you may find it is easiest to start with tools that are easy to use and highly visible. One such tool is LinkedIn, which has been called the “Facebook” of the business world. LinkedIn features include tools to network and grow relationships “within three degrees” of connection to you, a question and answer forum, a people search function that you can use to see how others present themselves, to see job opportunities, and find new potential contacts for informational interviews.

General Netiquette Tips

1. Don’t Flame Out. If you disagree with someone, always do so respectfully especially if you are commenting in an online forum and use your own name. “Flames” and profanity can help you strike out in the job search.

2. A customized approach always trumps an “automated” one. Personalizing invitations and sending messages tailored to meet the needs and interests of your audience will result in a higher return. This is true on applications from LinkedIn to Twitter particularly with regard to invitations.

3. “Do as the Romans do.” If you are trying your hand at a new technology application or platform, watch how seasoned users of the technology do it before actively using it yourself.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and there are unspoken conventions for many social media applications. For example, the micro?blog Twitter is commonly used by job seekers and business owners who wish to develop and strengthen their online reputation. On Twitter, users post “tweets” (messages of 140 characters or less) and can follow streams of other users and “be followed.” Twitter Netiquette guidelines:

You’re more interesting to the community if some of your messages are “on brand” (i.e. commenting on areas you wish to be known for) and other messages share personal interests and preferences. If your material is consistently “all about you,” your followers may become “qwitters” (Twitter term for individuals who stop following you).

You can find how?to guides for getting started with many social media applications. Read up on the technology before you start and you’ll be ahead of the game when you develop your online profile.

4. Consider everything you write as a mini?writing sample. As you never know what employers are going to find, you want to present yourself well. Good spelling and grammar can provide the tipping point in a hiring decision. Show you have what it takes.

5. Sound bites are in - strive to be brief, concise, and specific. Conventional wisdom maintains that employers spend 30 seconds or less on a resume. With social media, expect a quicker pass. Develop your materials so that they can be reviewed in an 10 seconds. Is your message easy to digest? Can I tell what you are looking for or talking about within the first 2-3 seconds?

Building Online Presence

There are several ways to develop and increase your online presence. With all of these forms of communication, the best way to start is to watch how other people do it, and ask questions.

LinkedIn: One of the most important things to do in LinkedIn is to fill out your profile accurately and completely. As the cost to search LinkedIn for potential talent is free for unpaid subscribers (and minimal for users), employers routinely use LinkedIn as a place to identify potential hires. Therefore, it’s important to have a great profile. Not sure what to say? Start with an advanced people search. See how other people present their skills, interest and experience and write your own using best practices from others. (Note: Employers search Linkedin profiles on key words in title and summary, so fill out these sections in full with relevant information.) Once you have a strong profile, expand your connections, join groups, and browse questions and answers.  You can even explore job listings.

Twitter: Twitter is a searchable public forum.  Don’t share any information you would not want your friends or perspective employers to see. As with Facebook, employers actively monitor “how they’re talked about” and how current and potential employees represent themselves online. You can create a pseudonym, but most people use their own names and include a short bio. Posting on Twitter is a balancing act between the personal and the professional: users frequently pick a topic to talk about (i.e. job search, great restaurants, observations from Peachtree). Using this framework, a majority of messages will be written “on message” with other personal observations thrown in. If you choose to write almost exclusively about your topic, make sure every fourth or fifth observation provides a personal glimpse of you. (Of if you choose to go personal, make sure you post a professional message every four messages.)

The trick on Twitter is to offer a unique perspective, but not bore your followers with incessant “tweets” (posts) about the same exact topic all the time. The best way to get started on Twitter is to create an account, add your bio, and start posting short messages of your own. Search Twitter’s search engine by key words to identify users of potential interest and to observe how they tweet. Once you have at least five messages, you can “find” and “follow” other.  Most users are alerted when they have new followers, and will then evaluate your content to decide if they should be “following you” back.

Newbie’s Guide for Twitter:
http://news.cnet.com/newbies-guide-to-twitter/

Social media expert Chris Brogan’s straight talk on how to get started.

Round?Up of Users Guides and Tutorials for Twitter:
http://pistachioconsulting.com/getting-started-on-twitter/

From Pistachio Consulting, a firm specializing in the business use of Twitter and other “microsharing” applications

Blogging: Before you start your own blog, consider making insightful comments on other people’s blogs. Some bloggers will say you need to write everyday; if your goal is not to be a professional blogger, I would aim to go weekly or biweekly instead.

How to Start a Blog:
http://www.wikihow.com/Start-a-Blog