If you’re reading this, then you probably have an online personal brand. Your brand consists of all the communities you participate in, and just about any piece of content that holds your name, face, or both. A new study by Pew Internet & American Life Project shows that 46% of online adults have created their own profile on a social networking site, which is an increase of 20% from 2006.

The internet is the global talent pool. If you don’t have a presence online, it will affect your job search, your career, your business, and your personal life. The reason for this is simple: people are already searching for you or people like you. For every time you don’t appear in a search for your name or a specific need that you want to rank high for, you lose an opportunity.

Global paranoia and your brand

General

When was the last time you did a search for your name on Google, Yahoo!, Bing, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Technorati? 57% of people use search engines to find out information about themselves online. Why are they interested in seeing what appears? What appears first in a search for your name is people’s first impression of you, so if it’s not the result you want people to see, then you have to change it through starting a website, joining social networks, getting press, and writing articles for websites.

Work-related

I’m sure there’s been a time when you were interested in finding out more information about your co-workers, but were afraid to ask. Well, I’m sure most of you reviewing their online brand to gain a better idea of their backgrounds. 31% of workers have searched for information about co-workers. One of the major problems people have, especially with Facebook, is separating their personal and professional lives. The transparent internet, and Facebook’s privacy controls have confused people, so sometimes those explicit pictures and come back to haunt you in the workplace. For instance, if you have pictures of yourself in a bikini online, even if they’re old, it will come off as unprofessional to your fellow cubicle or office dwellers.

Dating

There are no more blind dates anymore because you can learn a lot about your date in advance, without leaving your home. People want to be extra careful before they go on a date, and by viewing public profiles, you know what you’re in for. Once you’re dating someone, you will naturally pay attention to their updates on social networks or dating sites. 16% of people have looked online for more information about someone they are dating or in a relationship with. Among those who use online dating sites, 34% go online to check up on their dates. Be careful with how you represent yourself personally, or you might not just get that second date!

Safeguarding your brand

Press the delete button

It might be time to become picky when it comes to keeping friends and contacts on social networks. If you don’t know someone, how valuable could they be to you? They might even spam your Facebook wall! In fact, 56% of people have unfriended contacts in their network, and 52% of blocked them from their social updates. Identify who your current audience is on your social networks, and then configure settings so that your updates are seen by the people you want. For example, if your family, friends, and co-workers are connected to you on Facebook and you’re going to post an update on how you skipped work to take a road trip, then you want to target your social update to everyone except for your co-workers.

Review your privacy settings

Being private isn’t a bad thing and in most cases it can really save you from a reputation blunder. The best way to look at privacy is that there is no privacy on the internet. This way, you will be more careful on what you post because it does reflect who you are. 65% of people have changed the privacy settings on their profile to limit what they share with others online. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing something, then don’t do it. Call or email the person instead.

Image: d’n’c’

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