Your online image is the first chance your clients have to get to know you. Do you know what’s floating around on the internet about you? You might be surprised at what you’ll find from a simple search. What do you do with your findings? There are a few ways to clean up your online image and make it more professional for your brand.
How to Access Your Online Image
It used to be that clients only had access to exactly what you gave them when they decided who to work with. This has completely changed because of the Internet and social networking.
Most clients will check profiles on favorite social media sites before making any decisions. This makes it very important for you to take another look at your online image.
Things to avoid for your online image include:
- Inappropriate photos
- Inappropriate comments made by friends
- Discussions about drug use
- Talking poorly about previous clients
- Discriminatory comments
- Sharing confidential information about past clients
Your online image has the potential to either help or hurt you. Do an online search of your name to see what information of you comes up. This will help you to catch any potential red flags.
Heading online will give you a grab bag of information about yourself. There are things that you’ve had control over like your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, with their impressive pictures and bios you’ve been able to write yourself. You’ll also find links to articles you’ve published, blog posts you’ve written, and any speeches you’ve given.
It’s also possible that you’ll have some surprises when you search yourself online. These surprises can include unsolicited reviews by former or existing clients, and even reviews from employees and maybe employers.
There will also be the information you wish wasn’t there that you haven’t had as much control over, or added to the internet in the past. These could be Facebook photos you’ve been tagged in, Instagram selves you posted a long time ago, and the dreaded dead-end links or links that connect to dicey sites. You might even find your letters to the editor or old complaints to the city council. It can be scary to think about just how much old information will affect your online image.
Searching your name can bring up over 1,000 hits!
Anything you’ve ever been connected to online will pop up in a casual search, so how can you change your online image?
Searching your name and going through the first few pages of hits should automatically reveal the nature of your brand, but does it?
A basic search of my name will give you an idea of what I’m about. You’ll know right away that I’m the founder of the Digital Branding Institute, the Sr. Digital Brand Manager for the University of Southern California, and the principle consultant for Digital Delane. You will probably also come across some of the speeches that I’ve given across the country for advancing the practice of digital branding.
It’s possible that your online image won’t show you a reflection of who you are though, mine has undoubtedly taken work to nail down. Maybe you’ll look more like an entrepreneur who’s bounced around the last two decades doing odd jobs. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you will have to answer to those years to your clients when they’re visible online. If that’s how you come up in searches, then it’s best to be prepared to speak about how those skills will translate to what you’re doing now.
This may mean thinking twice before accepting invitations to speak or guest blog, and that’s okay. Just because you’re just starting out doesn’t mean that you need to take every opportunity thrown your way. You should still stay focused on what your brand is about.
The Negative Side of Searches
It’s also possible that your search will reveal that you look like someone who doesn’t care very much about what the world thinks. This can happen if you have several different LinkedIn profiles with your name on them but no picture, or no complete information. You can also appear this way if it’s been four years since you’ve posted on your blog that you started ten years ago, or if you’ve neglected to provide current contact information to online directories or professional associations.
The worst information that could come up is the side of you that you’d rather your clients didn’t know about. This could include private and personal information about yourself that you didn’t want the professional world to see. Things like how you celebrate holidays or what your handle is on the PlayStation is not information that the professional world is ready for.
You should be allowed to have a personality online, but you should still look like an effective professional. Keeping your personality professional will make your clients feel like you understand their concerns.
Clean Up Your Act
Before you get too crazy with doubling your followers and branching out into more social media sites, you’ll need to make sure that your current act is cleaned up. This means doing a sweep of every social network where you’ve ever had an account.
What you say or do online (even behind “privacy walls”) could end up living for decades on the Internet.
The Internet never forgets.
Wash it Up
Its important for your professional persona to go back and erase any rough language or inappropriate references. This isn’t just limited to Facebook and Twitter.
Go back to your accounts on photo sharing sites like Flickr, Instagram, and Pinterest as well as any video sharing sites like YouTube and Vine. Make sure that there isn’t anything on your accounts that would qualify as unflattering content. Also, make sure that you don’t have any language that would look bad on any ethics rules. Anything negative here will reflect poorly on your online image.
Close it Off
This is a great time to learn about privacy settings and change them to better support your brand or professional persona. Don’t get too crazy here though. Again, it’s essential to have a personality and not just be a blank canvas. You also don’t want to look like you’re afraid of the internet and have social media paranoia.
You want to be sure that your bios and profiles are up to date and schedule time for them to be regularly updated. If you get a new job that needs to go in there. If you publish something new that needs to be included. Remember to update with the big things like name changes, but don’t let the little moments pass you by. Above all, remember to be consistent.
Add a Picture
If your profile picture was taken 15 years ago, then its time for something more current.
When updating your picture, don’t use something taken with a smartphone. You’re a professional, and you should look like one. This is when it’s essential to pay for a good photo. A new professional picture is an easy way to spruce up your online image.
You social media sites will provide a way to personalize your page with cover and background pictures. You should take advantage of this, but remember to be tasteful and to keep it fresh.
Remember, every time you change your image on Facebook, it provides just another opportunity for you to reconnect with your audience.
Check Out Your Followers
It’s an age-old adage that you are who you hang out with. When looking at your profiles, you should take a little time to clean up your followers and friends.
There are a ton of social media apps, and the numbers are only growing. It will be easy for you to feel overwhelmed and neglect some of your profiles. This is why you should look into management tools like HootSuite which lets you engage with people from a single screen.
You might consider signing off on a few platforms. Specializing in one or two social media apps will make you better at it. Some of the best Twitterers there are happen to only be on Twitter.
Check out the Competition
Take a good look at brands that are similar to yours. Find out what they look like and how much information they share. Take a tour of their site. You should also be doing this periodically to make sure that you’re on top of all the relevant trends.
Your potential clients are going to compare your online image, so it’s worth your time to find out what you’re up against.
Your online image is a big part of who your brand is. Not paying attention to what your online image is will set you up for disaster and make your competition look better to your clients. Scheduling out some time for online image management will make sure that you look useful to anyone who’s searching for what your brand has to offer. Just follow our tips to make sure that your image will pass the client test.
How often do you search for yourself online?