The internet lets us do dumb things. It’s a fact, and if you’ve ever taken the time to dive deep into the dark history of your social media accounts, you’ve probably been at least a little embarrassed by a thing or two. Maybe it was a clip from a bachelor party you posted on Facebook, or your audition tape to an old MtV reality show, to a clip a family member posted of you that’s just… embarrassing. We’ve all been there.
And it’s increasingly true that the things we’ve done online could be ruinous for our careers and personal lives. This is especially true for individuals building startup companies or looking to be hired by another firm. It’s breathtakingly easy for the general public and firms to get a good eagle’s eye view of the online reputation of a person or business. What do you do if your online reputation isn’t necessarily five stars?
Review Your Online Reputation
When is the last time you Googled yourself? You might be surprised what you find! Before going into panic mode, scope out what can easily be found out about you online, and set up a few alerts for your name so that you can be notified of any new additions bearing your name on the internet. This can be time-consuming if you do it too frequently; so don’t worry about poking around too much. And if you identify items worthy of action, begin making a list of the websites you’ll need to interact with. An online reputation ‘to do’ list, so to speak. Depending on the size of the list, you might feel comfortable tackling all the items yourself… or you may want to outsource. For a long list of items, the reputation management cost is usually cheaper in the long term when you hand it over to a service, rather than spending hours sending emails to various website owners.
But if you’re like most people, there are probably only a few glaring items that you’d like to have changed. And if you decide to take action yourself, what options are available to you?
Provide Better Information
In some cases if the item in question isn’t too bad, and is old enough, you can just work to bury it under better information. This can be a little tricky, as the information which is published can’t simply come from your personal website; you’ll need to get more positive information about you out there on other websites. In some cases, this can be as simple as providing quotes or story ideas to local newspapers, or guest-blogging at websites related to your industry.
Lock Down Your Social Media
A lot of the most damning evidence is mostly available on social media. And if you haven’t locked down your social media profiles to ‘friends-only’ settings and gotten them out of the public view, you should change that ASAP. It can take days or weeks for search engines to reflect this change, but it’s usually a good idea for the long run.
Get It Deleted
In some cases, you might be able to request that information be deleted. In the simplest case, if you scroll down on the website which displays negative information, you might be able to see a button or link requesting that your information be removed. In other cases, just use the website’s contact tab to send a message to its administrators. Expect that some requests will take a long time to be replied to, so set a reminder to check back in after a week or two.
Many employers admit that they use the internet to research potential job applicants, and what they find factors into hiring decisions roughly 70% of the time. And reputation can be make-or-break for a business, too; a similar proportion of online shoppers use a business’s online reputation to make buying decisions. So be proactive about managing your online reputation… or suffer the consequences.