linkedin_-people-search-results-1It’s gotten to the point that you just aren’t keeping up with the times if you don’t have a Facebook account, a LinkedIn profile, a Twitter feed and a presence on a dozen other websites. It can be crazy trying to keep up with all of it — and there are new social networking websites coming out every day. What can you do? It’s absolutely imperative that you’re on all of them, right?

Well, there are some clear benefits to spending time on all those websites that make up your online presence — but there are also plenty of drawbacks. It’s worth taking a look at the reasons you should care about creating social networking profiles and updating them, as well as considering the negative aspects of dealing with all of those sites.

5 Reasons to Care About Your Online Presence

  1. Employers and clients look for you online. While many of those people interested in offering you work are looking for your contact information and your references, plenty are looking for all the bad things about you that may have be listed online. Having social networking profiles can give you several pages that pop up on a Google search that are more or less under your control. They’re usually highly ranked and can help you show off your talents in a more recognizable format than a blog or personal website.
  2. You can make contacts and find friends online. Stories of long-lost friends reconnecting on Facebook and other websites are becoming common. And social networking sites don’t just limit you to friends you already know: they provide an easy forum to find business contacts without any requirement that you actually leave your home or office and go to a networking event.
  3. You can communicate even without contact information. Many important people in a variety of industries have at least a placeholder profile up on a variety of social networking website. And while you could never get a direct phone number for some of the people higher up the food chain, you can still easily send them a message on LinkedIn or whatever other website they frequent. It’s possible that some sort of assistant will review your message — but you can still get a lot closer to bigwigs via social networking.
  4. If you don’t claim your name on all the various social networking sites, someone might do it for you. Seth Godin, the author of numerous marketing books, provides a classic example: despite the fact that someone has claimed the name ‘sethgodin’ on Twitter, it wasn’t actually Godin (who blogged about the fact). In Godin’s case, the account was not used maliciously — but it also wasn’t a case of someone with the same name getting there first. If you don’t grab your name on every social network that pops up, you may not be so lucky. Someone could easily use such an account to spread false information or otherwise cause trouble.
  5. Everybody else is doing it. Peer pressure is a poor excuse — but if it’s becoming an industry standard in your field to have an online presence, not having one can be problematic in the long run. And if all of your friends stay in touch through a particular website, you certainly don’t want to get left out. Merely putting together a profile and updating it can be a small investment of your time, compared to not having the ability to connect to customers or friends online.

3 Reasons to Forget About Your Online Presence

  1. Employers and customers don’t actually care that much about your social networking abilities. Sure, just about everyone will run a search on your name these days — but as long as they don’t find anything bad, it doesn’t particularly matter what they do find. If you have a particularly common name, you’re likely to get lost in the shuffle anyhow. You’ve got plenty of other ways to describe your abilities and connections, and you can probably do a better job of that fact than a standardized profile page.
  2. Putting too much information out there isn’t necessarily safe. Even assuming that identity thieves aren’t monitoring your every move through all your online accounts, telling your clients, family and everyone else every detail of your life just doesn’t sound like a good idea. There are so many horror stories about over-sharing, and having a thorough online presence just asks for such a story to happen to you.
  3. Social networking and crafting an online presence take a lot of time. If you get going, it isn’t hard to spend hours on a site like Twitter. You can call it networking or marketing, but either way, you’ve spent time that certainly could have been put to better use on trying to connect with the kids in your third grade class.

Finding Some Balance

It seems like social networking and online presences only have the value that we give them — and giving them too much value isn’t wise. That said, I think that maintaining a profile or two is a good idea. It’s worthwhile to grab your name on multiple sites, but I don’t bother with constantly updating every site I have a profile on. Instead they all point to either my website or the two sites that I do interact with regularly.

Like most things, caring about your online presence in moderation can be useful. It’s when a person tries to update every site under the sun that it becomes useless. It’s worth thinking about just what level of moderation makes sense for you.

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