Have you ever tried Googling yourself? If you haven’t, try it now.
Chances are, your Facebook, Twitter, or other social media accounts would turn up on the search results. Not surprising, given that Filipinos spend 53 hours a week on social networking sites. That’s 11 hours more than the global average of 42 hours, according to Wave7, a survey on more than one billion active internet users by Universal McCann.
Almost every Pinoy nowadays then has a digital presence. More proof: Makati (combined with Pasig) was hailed as the “Selfie Capital of the World,” while Cebu came up ninth, according to Time’s study last year.
But more importantly, Wave7 found that professional social networking (LinkedIn, Biznik, etc.) showed the fastest growth globally last year. In the Philippines, it went up a significant 17 percent, from 2013’s 41 percent to 58 percent in 2014.
What does that mean? Simply put, both employers and applicants are increasingly turning to professional social networking for the hiring process. This means that prospective employers could be checking your online CV right now. Worse, they could be Googling you right this moment.
The question is: would you be proud of the results they might find, or embarrassed by your public posts, tweets and selfies?
Online Reputation Management
According to Techopedia, online reputation management (ORM) is “the practice of crafting strategies that shape or influence the public perception of an organization, individual or other entity on the Internet.”
Note that ORM is not only for companies, but for your personal branding as well. “The stuff people care most about is what they find when they Google you,” says Michael Fertik, CEO and founder of online reputation management firm Reputation.com, in the Time article “How to Manage Your Online Reputation.”
This is why it’s important that you know how you look online. Thankfully, you can follow these tips from the above Time article to ensure that your online presence shows you in the best light professionally.
Decide What You Want Out There
You don’t need to be unsearchable on the internet. “It's weird for people in this day and age not to have an online profile,” Fertik says. Instead of being invisible online, you can do the following:
1. Check if your online profile includes content that can give potential employers the wrong impression, such as drunken photos, TMI tweets, and even emo Facebook posts.
2. Delete or hide these undesirable pieces of content. Realize, however, that cleaning up can be time- and energy-consuming. Focus instead on strengthening your existing profiles to keep the bad content away from your top Google results.
Improve your LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn profiles usually appear in Google results, so make sure yours is “current, accurate and grabby.” LinkedIn trainer Viveka Von Rosen shares some tips to do this:
1. Use the Headline field to grab attention. “Rather than going with the default (your title at your current company), take the opportunity to say what it is that you do. Something like, ‘graphic artist working with startups in the Sudan,’” Von Rosen advises.
2. Use keywords related to your field when describing yourself in the Summary and Experience sections. Doing so can help your profile appear on Google if someone is searching for particular skills.
3. Make sure your profile is visible on the web. Go to Settings, select Edit Your Public Profile and check Make my public profile visible to everyone. This can help you control the information displayed on your public profile and avoid identity theft.
Get active on Twitter
Like LinkedIn, Twitter profiles appear in Google search because of the site’s high traffic and daily volume of user posts. In fact, you can even use Twitter for job hunting, so maximize your account by doing the following:
1. Choose a Twitter username that is close to your real name, Reputation.com’s Fertik suggests. Doing so will let your Twitter appear along with your LinkedIn profile when someone searches for you.
2. Regularly post content relevant to your field to help build up your online profile for prospective employers.
3. If your Twitter is very personal however, limit the access only to your followers.
4. If you don’t want your account to appear on Google at all, go to Settings > Security and Privacy and select Protect my Tweets.
Needless to say, be very careful about what you tweet. You don’t want to end up like Justine Sacco, former Chief of PR of IAC, who was fired after her controversial tweet went viral in December 2013.
Dial up the Facebook privacy settings
LinkedIn’s von Rosen says, “Recruiters use Twitter to post jobs, LinkedIn to source candidates, and Facebook to eliminate candidates.” This could be problematic, however, for employers might misjudge an applicant based on his or her Facebook profile alone. A North Carolina State University study found that there’s usually little correlation between a person’s real-life personality and their Facebook self.
To address these concerns, adjust your Facebook accordingly:
1. If needed, hide your Facebook profile from search engine results. To do this, go to Settings > Privacy and select No to “Do you want other search engines to link to your timeline?”
2. However, even if you have hidden your Facebook from Google, you can still get searched on FB itself. As a workaround, set your posts to “Friends Only.” This way, only your About info (city, work, school) is publicly available.
3. If a prospective employer could be part of your network, filter your posts. Go to Settings > Timeline > Tagging and check the option to view how your timeline appears to the public.
4. If you have posts you don’t want potential employers to see, change their visibility by selecting the photo or status, clicking Edit, then changing “Public” to “Friends” or “Only Me”.
Just like on Twitter, be very conscious of what you post on Facebook. Early this year, a Filipino nurse working in a Singapore hospital was fired for his racist Facebook post.
Pull up the positive, push down the negative
Despite your best efforts to control your social media accounts, it is still possible that there’s undesirable web content out there about you – an unflatterring photo from an ex, a malicious post from a former boss. In extreme cases, local celebrities like Paolo Bediones, actress Melissa Mendez, and even civilians like the “Amalayer” girl have found themselves dealing with negative online content that are very difficult to get rid of.
Worry not. Though it may take a bit of work, here are some ways to handle this issue:
1. If you find such pictures or information about you on a website, contact the site owner to remove or update it.
2. If they won’t, try online reputation management services like Reputation.com. These companies push the offending content out of the first page of search results by publishing positive content about you such as reputable articles, blog posts, and others.
The internet is here to stay, so let us optimize the benefits we can reap from it, both in our personal and professional lives. But more importantly, keep in mind that once we share a part of ourselves online, others can use or misuse it for whatever reason, so be very conscious and careful.
For more information on how digital sharing affects us, watch the TED talk “Your online life, permanent as tattoo” from Harvard Business School Life Sciences Project’s founding director, Juan Enriquez.
Image source: Sharenator