That photo you wish you wouldn’t have taken at a party in college? Prospective employers can find it if they search hard enough. That tweet you sent out while you were upset with your ex? Colleagues will often judge your character based on information you post online.
And while you can’t always wipe your online image totally clean, you can start to build a positive online reputation that’s strong and professional.
1. Launch a Professional Website
Every young professional needs a professional website. This serves as your online home and is something you can totally control. Think of it like your online real estate. Whereas things like social media profiles, images, and guest blogging profiles can theoretically be controlled by third-party networks, nobody can touch your website. It’s your real estate and only you determine the appearance and content.
Start by buying your own domain name. Keep it short and simple. Try to get a .com domain name with your full name. If that’s already taken, a simple and logical abbreviation may work. Avoid getting too creative, though. If you’re forced to throw in extra words, it’ll look unprofessional.
Here’s an example of an effective professional website. Not only is the domain name good — it’s the entrepreneur’s full name — but the design is visually pleasing and functional.
2. Brand Your Social Profiles
Next come your social profiles. This will require one part cleanup and another part brand building. The first part will largely depend on how long you’ve been active on social media and how much discretion you’ve showed in the past.
Start by cleaning up your profiles. Look through past photos and weed out ones that don’t paint you in a positive light. Read past statuses and delete ones that could be taken the wrong way. Adjust your settings on sites like Facebook to restrict tagging to approval-only.
After cleaning up your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, it’s a good idea to build a LinkedIn profile (if you don’t already have one). This is how colleagues and employers will find you. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, they’ll question your professional image.
Here’s an example of a great LinkedIn profile page. It’s for a company, but it shows all of the elements you want in a professional profile. It has quality images, comprehensive profile information, and direct links to any other websites and social profiles. Make sure you don’t leave any important fields blank.
3. Attach Content to Your Name
The third important tip is to begin attaching content to your name. In modern business, online content is currency. It gives your voice a chance to shine through and helps establish connections with other companies and individuals. Begin cultivating relationships as soon as possible. You never know when one connection will help you land another opportunity.
The trouble with the internet is that it never forgets. A single misstep can haunt you for years to come — both in your career and your personal life. With this in mind, make sure you practice discipline and patience.
Only post information that will benefit you and never do anything that you don’t want displayed for the entire world to see.
But remember, it’s not all negative. You shouldn’t have to tiptoe around the internet. By taking a proactive approach, you can actually leverage the internet to build a strong brand and make invaluable connections. Think about these tips and begin developing your own approach today!