Digital footprints can track virtual mud all over your professional image and personal life. Negative information about you online can do more damage than you realize. It can stick like a bad tattoo.
PewInternet.org reported that 44 percent of adult men and women go online to find out more information about someone before interacting with them on a personal or professional level. Your digital presence can affect everything from your job search to romantic relationships.
Taking control of your online identity should be your top priority. Modern technology has turned life into a digital fishbowl. In such an environment, defining how people see you matters. Companies like Reputation.com make helping men and women throughout the world strengthen their online reputations a full-time industry.
Building a better online reputation is like cultivating your own brand. If you don’t define how you are seen online, someone else will do it and you might not like the results. You can implement these five steps to remove your own digital tattoos:
Check Out Search Engines
Doing a search on your name will tell you quickly what information about you is out there online. It tells you what is being said — both good and bad. What you see on page one matters. The Guardian reported that 94 percent of Google users never look at search engine results beyond the first page. Set up Google alerts and Yahoo alerts to track new content related to your name. It can help you stay informed on what information is out there.
Create a Social Media Presence
Staying ahead of search engines is just half the battle. Social media channels can play an equally large role in creating digital footprints. Yahoo reports that Facebook alone has 665 million daily active users. Set up accounts on major social media networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pintrest, Google+ YouTube and Tumblr. These social media sites are often what turns up on the first page in search engine results related to your name. Information shared on social media can profoundly impact how other people see you. Track information that is shared and make an effort to share positive information about yourself.
Buy Your Domain Name
One of the best things you can do to enhance your digital reputation is to limit opportunities for other people to smear your name. Buy domain names connected to your name. Forbes.com notes that it costs as little as $12 a year to register a domain name with some domain registrars. Once you pick a domain name — and others closely associated to the address — put effort into creating content about yourself for that site. It can include a short bio, resume, articles or whatever else you feel is appropriate.
Centralize Your Content
Giving people a place to go to get the latest information on you can only help your efforts to create a positive online image. The Daily Muse notes that at least 40 percent of hiring managers use social media as part of their screening process and many others use it as an informal tool. Creating your own Web site is a good way to dispense accurate information about yourself. You can link to your official social media accounts and control your personal brand.
Keep Private Information Private
Think twice before posting any private information. Things that seem funny or cool to you may be deemed offensive by someone else. Monitor postings related to your name and image on social media. Ask others to remove unflattering pictures or posts. Create strong passwords for your accounts so only you are responsible for the information shared.
About the Author: Dylan Wright is a musician and writer from Albuquerque, N.M.