Personal Branding – Protecting Your On-line Reputation

Have you ever Googled your own name? Have you ever had an employer Google you as part of your interview? It feels a little intimidating, but in the virtual world that we now live in, it is equally important to maintain your on-line reputation as well as your true face to face reputation. This is especially true for today’s teens as in a few years they will become a viable part of the workforce.

If you Google my name Dianna Kersey, you will find an array of industry articles I have written, the company I work for, the social media groups I am active in, websites I own and my charity work. You can also find my Facebook posts, blog posts, blog posts comments, online product reviews, tweets, videos and images. If a person knows your user name in these social media sites, then everything is searchable. Nothing is sacred on the internet.

So where am I going with this? Your kids’ daily interact in this realm of social media and as parents, you need to know that what your kids put on facebook today, can get them fired or prevent them from employment tomorrow.

Employers’ Point of View

A company has a right to protect its brand, and image. The people that represent their brand which includes you, are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that is in line with the ethics of that company. This is the reason that 93% of Human Resources Managers polled admitted to searching a potential employee’s name in Google as a part of the hiring process.

Once you have posted potentially damaging content regarding your personal life, or your enemy’s personal life on a social networking website, it can make its way to first page search results in Google within 10 days. Any and all personal pictures and comments posted will be archived in Internet databases forever!

Potential candidates for company positions and colleges will no longer exclusively look at written resumes. Colleges and employers look for your personal LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace pages that show who you are professionally connected with and what your qualifications are for the job, as well as what how you conduct yourself online.

In reviewing “who you are” employers will also discover your social actions (naughty or nice) and how you present yourself on the social web. This is where most job applicants fall flat and are denied a position.

Take for instance; here is a forum post from a college career adviser:

I work as a career adviser at an art school, so I speak with employers all of the time. This is definitely true – companies even search profiles before student’s interview for their internships. I will say as well that the most common complaint I get from the companies is that students are constantly on MySpace – and it is not uncommon for them to be dismissed for that reason.

Can You Be Fired for Comments on Facebook? Yes You Can!

Typing in a simple post or tweet about your job such as “I am soooo bored today! My job totally sucks!” Can and will get you fired and employers have the right to do so. Countless incidents are cited daily about how people are getting fired for poor judgments in their social life. It has become so common that there is a Facebook group called “Fired because of Facebook” for people who have lost their employment due to their actions on social media networking sites.

Typing in a simple post or tweet about your job such as “I am soooo bored today! My job totally sucks!” Can and will get you fired and employers have the right to do so. Countless incidents are cited daily about how people are getting fired for poor judgments in their social life. It has become so common that there is a Facebook group called “Fired because of Facebook” for people who have lost their employment due to their actions on social media networking sites.

A article describes in detail how a worker was fired directly on Facebook from her employer after her snarky remarks about him and her job.

The article continues with a recent study from Proof Point, an Internet security firm, revealing of companies with 1,000 or more employees, 17 percent report having issues with employee’s use of social media. And, eight percent of those companies report having actually dismissed someone for their behavior on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.

Some other interesting findings from the study:

15 percent have disciplined an employee for violating multimedia sharing/posting policies.

13 percent of US companies investigated an exposure event involving text messaging.

17 percent disciplined an employee for violating blog or message board policies.

“Employers are more closely monitoring social media sites, and employees are continuing to not use common sense when posting about work life, either by sharing sensitive corporate details, or simply by making foolish remarks about their employer.” This makes for a volatile combination.

Don’t Even Think About Calling In Sick

Just about everyone has a cell phone and most of them have cameras. If you have called in sick to work or school and instead are going to a party or concert, just know there will be someone there who knows someone you know and you’ll be tagged.

Facebook isn’t just for students anymore and there’s a good chance that you’ve got co-workers, business associates and bosses as “friends”. Getting tagged in photos of you drinking belly button shots while you were supposed to be home with the flu could get you in risky business with your boss and possibly fired for deceptive practices.

Take Personal Responsibility for What You Write Online

In smaller towns where everyone knows your business, your reputation used to be based on how you conducted yourself at church, school, work and extra-curricular activities. We have lost some of that guardedness since we have virtualized ourselves. We must understand the ramifications of the on-line words we speak.

Our words should be just as golden on a website as they would be in person. Your on-line reputation will speak worldly volumes about you for years to come, not just what Sally Sue said last week at the ballgame that will forgotten next month.

Think twice before posting up anything that could compromise another person as well, you might be mad at them now, but would it be fair 5 years from now that your best friend didn’t get their dream job after college because you posted unsavory pictures of them when they were younger? Folks, think about what you do before hitting “enter”.

Pay attention to the information you give about yourself on the internet. It only takes a couple of clicks from a cyber stalker to discover a kids’ favorite haunts, foods, movies and games let alone their sexual preference, religion and what they do on the weekends.

Cyber stalkers are rampant and with reports on cyber attacks higher than ever before, your kids need to protect themselves. For their own safety, know what your kids place on their profiles and be sure to review their privacy settings on these accounts as to who can read, index and search on what they have written.

True Local Parent Story about Facebook

A mom found a rather lurid image of her daughter on her daughter’s Facebook fan page and discussed it with her husband. Even though their daughter was visiting family 2,000 miles away, he was able to tell her how inappropriate it was to represent herself publically the way she had. The image was removed and peace in the family was restored.

It just takes one person to create a screenshot of something you write or post on a social networking site that could haunt you for life. So next time you post something online, err on the side of caution. Assume that everyone in the world can view it – and would you really want them to?

So What Is a Parent to Do?

1. Know what social networks your teens are on, join them yourself and become friends with them.

2. Follow and become friends of your kids and your kid’s friends. Stay in touch with who is influencing your children.

3. Lead by Example. Conduct your own personal social media life with integrity.

4. Watch what they do! Kids will continue to push the social boundaries until you tell them to discontinue. They need to learn right from wrong in the virtual world as well.

5. Teach your kids to use social media for positive results.

6. Create a constructive resume fan page of your teen and list their accomplishments and prepare for their future college or employers.

Teach your children that what they write, post, tweet and text is all public venue and is available in the search engines and is absolutely available with a court order. Cell phones texting records are admissible as evidence if a crime were involved.

Bottom line is: If your kids wouldn’t want their grandmother to know what they are writing, they shouldn’t be doing it. It will come back to haunt them when they are older and more mature.

Dianna Kersey is an Information Architect living in Conrad who daily commutes virtually to Tampa, Fla., representing International clients and brands for search engine presence and social media engagements.

She can be reached at dfkersey @

Social Media Etiquette: What You Post May Come Back to Haunt You

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