So, you have a social profile. In fact, you have several. You’re on LinkedIn for business. You’re on Facebook for personal. And you’ve got a Twitter account, probably for a bit of both. So far, so good.
But what about all those other accounts you’ve signed up for over the years? The ones you just wanted to play with. The ones you were really into for a few months before moving on. The ones that now lay dormant and forgotten – think MySpace, Friendster, Hi5, Bebo, Friends Reunited (the list goes on andon).
The reality, of course, is that nothing on the web is ever really forgotten. Google has made sure of that. You will turn up on searches in all your many guises. Some will be accurate. Others will be a version of you that could be years out of date. Worse, some could offer up a version of you that you’d prefer potential customers, partners and employers not to see.
How many social profiles do you have?
The first thing to do is assess the task. This means spending some time vanity searching for your name (like you aren’t doing that already). Don’t just rely on Google, search for your name on Bing and Yahoo! too. Make sure to go deep – some of your social profiles may be hidden on page 30 of the results.
Try different versions of your name: so if you are Jason William Smith, try Jason Smith, Jason W Smith, J W Smith, jasonsmith etc. This will help you pick up all those user names you may have selected when your preferred one wasn’t available. Try adding your employer’s name and any other companies you’ve worked for as well to see what that might pick up. And entering your email address as a search term will likely throw up some interesting results.
Make sure you don’t simply limit yourself to text search either. Search within images and videos too, as well as across blogs.
While this doesn’t guarantee to pick up every instance of your online presence, it should help you discover where you’re appearing to potential customers or employers (and what they’re seeing).
Is your photo up to date?
Across social networks, comments and blogs, you’re probably displaying a variety of avatars and photos. Take this opportunity to check out whether they need updating – after all, many of the people you meet in person will check you out online first (even if it’s just so they recognise you when you meet). You might also want to consider using a higher quality photo across all your public social profiles. This will make it easier for people to make the connection between all the different you’s. Which brings us on to…
Are you delivering a consistent personal brand?
Your social profile is a key part of your personal online brand. It tells people who you are, what you care about and why they should get to know you. If each of your social profiles tells a different story, the whole will be less than the sum of its parts. Worse, if your LinkedIn profile tells people you’re all about the details but your Twitter profile is riddled with spelling mistakes, you could be damaging your effectiveness.
While your profile descriptions do not have to say exactly the same thing (though they can), they should be consistent and accurate. Which brings us to…
Have you separated your professional profile from your personal one?
Some people have no problem sharing their innermost secrets with the world. They leave their Facebook pages wide open and don’t give a damn. The majority of people, however, draw lines between their work life and their personal life. They use Facebook to hang out with friends and share cat pictures, and LinkedIn for networking and other work-related activity. In addition, Google+ is emerging as a crossover network that caters for both (albeit with a bit of a business slant).
The problem comes when people leave their profiles open for everyone to see without meaning to. Even on LinkedIn, many people allow anyone to see their connections (including all their competitors) without stopping to think whether this is what they really want.
So as part of spring cleaning your social profile, take time to review the privacy settings on your different social networks. Lock down what needs to be private and open up what you want to share.
Are you keeping up with the changes?
There have been a number of significant changes to most of the main social networks in recent years. If you’ve been ignoring your social profile, your presence might be starting to show its age.
LinkedIn’s redesign has now rolled out to all users. It now allows you to link to more content, embed presentations and highlight key projects. Many people also don’t realise they can rearrange the different sections of their profile to put the most important stuff first. And you can now specify key skills and receive quick and easy endorsements from your contacts.
Twitter’s profile screens received a major design update in September 2012. It now includes a new customisable header image and on-page photo stream similar to Facebook’s.
Facebook itself introduced its timeline design in 2011 and it’s been slowly rolling out since. Timeline not only categorises all your updates, it allows you to go back and highlight key milestones – both personally and on company pages. The new design also allows for new header images.
And this is just the big three networks.
So take time to review the look of your social profiles and see how you can bring them up to date.
We must do this again
Of course, it’s easy to spend time updating your social profile just to let it lapse again. To guard against this, ensure you only maintain profiles on the networks that really matter to you. Delete your profile from any that you never visit. And put a date in your diary for your annual social spring clean.