Your online presence

What is your online presence

Your online presence consists of all the information about you on the internet - this usually comes from your social network profiles (like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+), photographs that you, your friends or family have posted online (and tagged), anything you have written or that has been written about you on blogs, wikis or forums.

It’s quite likely that you are already using social media for socialising, keeping in touch, making new friends, finding and sharing information.  However, the function of social media is not just 'social'.  Having social networking profiles and regularly engaging with others through social media is generally seen by employers as a good thing. It shows you can use new web technologies and also gives employers an idea of what you are like beyond your CV, and it can be an invaluable tool for making contacts. 

However employers are also using social media for screening candidates, so what you say and do online (or not, if you don't have a presence at all) could prevent you from getting an interview or even cause you to lose your job.

Common reasons for rejecting applicants include poor communication skills (poor grammar or spelling), inappropriate photos, information about drinking/drug use, lying about qualifications/experience, unprofessional screen names and racist/sexist/offensive comments.

contentbox-quote-orange.gif'In the age of social media, public sharing of personal information has become the norm. It’s not unheard of for someone to air their grievances, share their frustrations, post photos of their antics, or simply share too much information. But social media users are also realizing that there can be major consequences for over-sharing — especially when it comes to employment.' (Flowtown)

Before you begin to search and apply for jobs, it is important that your online presence says the right things about you.  Google yourself to check what recruiters will see when they do the same:

contentbox-exclaim-orange.gifDo you have an online presence? What can people find out about you?  What have people said about you?  Is it a positive impression? Is there anything you wouldn’t want people to know about? 

A positive footprint should show employers that you have a wide range of interests, ideas, achievements, qualifications, experience and awards as well as being able to communicate in a professional way.

Clean up your online profile

Everything you do online is permanent, direct and immediate, often the information becomes public by default, you don’t own much of the content and simply removing something from the web doesn’t always mean that people won’t find it.  Below are some tips for ensuring people only see what you want them to see.

  • Set up privacy settings: Unless you set appropriate privacy settings and limit who has access to your accounts/information your social network page will come up on a web search. 
  • Don’t assume that your comments won’t be seen by people outside your network – social media sites are designed for sharing, you just never know when a friend-of-a-friend may also be a friend-of-the-boss. You can’t control what other people will do with your information.
  • Make sure any negative information (a compromising photo or comments from a night out for example) is not available to the general public.
  • Remove anything that is no longer true of you.
  • Leave any Facebook groups/fan pages, remove followers that might undermine your image
  • Consider having separate accounts for 'business' and 'personal' use, or using different sites for different functions. Use LinkedIn as your professional profile and Facebook for your personal networking for example
  • Don't talk negatively about your current or previous employers using social media. If in doubt, don't mention your job at all.
  • Always avoid inappropriate language, ill-advised comments or jokes.
  • Un-tag yourself from photos
  • Be aware of your own privacy and the need to protect your identity. Don't give out information that can be used against you.  Always check you are logged out after use.

If in doubt, think “Would I be happy for a prospective employer to see this?”

Make your online presence positive

Once you have everything in order you can start to build a good online portfolio - highlighting your achievements, success stories and good qualities. When employers put your name into Google, ensure they see you at your best.

Show you know what you are doing with social media, write an interesting blog or get recommended on LinkedIn. Be confident, use the right terminology and get to know all the applications, sites and trends that social networkers are using.

Market your presence

For maximum impact make sure people can find your profile

  • Update your status regularly
  • Comment on yours and others content - shows your understanding of industry issues, which in turn encourages feedback
  • Add lots of tags and  keywords related to what you do and who you are (subject specialisms, specific skills, hobbies, products you endorse or create) so your profile comes up in searches
  • Add links - you increase others page views which maybe reciprocated (use @ and # on twitter)
  • If you include anything visual – especially samples of your work, make sure you use a variety of descriptors or keywords to describe the image
  • The more groups you join, or connections you make the more visible you will become
  • Quality content will make people look twice – make your profile stand out with high quality content that people will want to come back to or recommend to their friends
  • Check spelling and grammar
  • Whether you are putting your images on Flickr, videos on YouTube, articles of interest pinned on Pinterest, blogs etc. make sure your profiles are connected in some way. Use applications to link your profiles together (ie WordPress), mention your other profiles in your contact details or have a theme running through all your profiles (use the same avatar/photograph or colour scheme for example).
  • Other tools such as HootSuite/tweetdeck could be used to monitor and post to multiple social networks/accounts
  • Don’t forget to add the link to your profile in your CV or portfolio.
  • If you are self employed or freelance don’t list your employer as ‘self employed’ or ‘freelance’ – hundreds of other people already do that.  If you want to set yourself apart list your employer as you.  Create a name and brand for yourself e.g. ‘john smith designs’.
  • Online ID Calculator‚™ is a tool that will help you make sense of your Google results and give you advice on how to build your online identity and create a personal brand.
  • Personal branding - an ongoing series of blog posts drafted specifically to help students understand and build their personal brand.