As of May 2013, 72 percent of adults were using social networking sites, according to Pew Internet, a project of the Pew Research Center. In this age where user-curated information can be shared globally, in real time, it's imperative to understand and own your online brand.
The explosion in popularity of social media has opened up a world of sharing fueled by tagging, liking and following that can have consequences for those who have not invested time to control their online image.
It can take a little legwork to manage an online reputation, but being conscious of the image you portray online can aid in career and professional development by managing the information people have access to.
There is much to be learned by doing a self-search on the Internet and taking control of your online brand. It is important to know if someone with the same name has a negative, harmful or criminal presence online so steps can be taken to address and eliminate inaccurate representations.
When searching, consider the following:
• Use a variety of tools: Google and other search engines use algorithms to help shape responses to searches, so it may not list all relevant hits. When searching, clear the browser cache, utilize more than one search engine, and try using several Internet sources (i.e., Wi-Fi at a local coffee shop, or a local library) to be as thorough as possible.
• Ensure information is complete: Providing greater detail on your public-facing profiles may help clear up confusion when people have similar names. If a potential employer searches for a candidate on LinkedIn, it will be easier for them to determine the correct applicant if they can reference known details such as location and current/past job title.
• Create Web alerts: Since information is constantly being added to the Internet, a one-and-done approach may not be enough to stay on top of your Web presence. Creating Web alerts can help keep you informed when new images, articles or notes that contain your name hit the Internet, enabling you to react quickly.
Stay the course
As more employers utilize the Web to review current and potential candidates, it is important to make time for consistent personal brand maintenance. Devoting a bit of research into the online you can increase the value of current social profiles and safeguard professional networks.
If you are not managing your brand online, someone else may be. Establishing good and consistent online management habits will help you put your best online profile forward.
Juan Baron is a wealth management adviser and the managing director for Northwestern Mutual in West Los Angeles. Baron serves on the board of managers for the Westside Family YMCA and the board of directors for the Inland Empire Latino Lawyers Association Inc., a nonprofit provider of free legal services for the poor and underprivileged residents of the Inland Empire. Baron also is a certified financial planner, a chartered life underwriter and a chartered financial consultant.
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