How to spin your online presence for best results

By Tony Deblauwe, HR4Change

The continuous expansion of technology has provided a wealth of tools to assist in job search.

For all the capabilities job seekers now possess to discover who is hiring and what companies are thumbs up or down in terms of environment and management, the flip side of progress is the information available to companies about individuals.

Innocent comments, blogs, photos, or job history have been consumed by web archiving engines, algorithms, and tagging to create a fortress of details that can paint a different profile than what you want to show the world.

All it takes is a few clicks and the wrong interpretation of those details can mean the difference between getting a recruiter to call you or not.

Whether you like or accept the collateral damage of the Internet way of life, you have to be as mindful about taking care of your online personal brand as you do diet and exercise.

The good news is that unless you have a deep history of negative events in your digital past, you don’t need a professional to erase your tracks. You can take steps to boost the good stuff you want to people to associate with you and minimize the potentially disruptive content.

5 steps to build your brand online

1) Do the research

The first step is to understand what you can learn about yourself online.

Go to a couple of search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. In each, type your name with and without quotes. Include maiden names if that applies.

You will most likely see what you expect such as major sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or other social sites you belong to. You might also find links to sites you have nothing to with that pulled your name from public records, phones lists or other information. These are the links you want to review to ensure have nothing troubling. The ones that appear questionable should be bookmarked investigated further.

The main goal is to get a high level blast of how your name first appears to the world and the first impression you might give a hiring manager or recruiter.

2) Identify your core content

While you may not be able to aggregate all your digital fingerprints into one place, clear focus of how you want to be represented starts with understanding your core content. This could be your LinkedIn profile or other professional sites like industry specific sites where you contributed a comment or a blog entry.

The best way to do this is register your name as a website. Surprisingly people don’t realize that anyone can register your name even if it is not you. Avoid this mistake by registering the site and creating a simple site with your bio, picture, links, and ways to contact.

Try to do this at least one month before you start your search. Its takes a little time from initial registration to embed sites in search results.

Also, clean up your links. Content that has your name in the link itself will come to the top of search results faster than random links. Most sites allow you to do this so update them appropriately. If you find this process too complicated, you can find inexpensive resources that will create this for you.

3) Review your entries

For the content you want displayed that you can control, remove or update the information that remain true to your core.

This could mean deleting photos from sites, comments, testimonials, or anything you feel not relevant to how you want to be perceived. This action doesn’t mean you have to take everything down like reviews of restaurants or movies, but based on the search results you found, evaluate what you feel could be damaging or not.

More challenging is if you are tagged in photos or comments you did not realize you were associated with. If you cannot de-tag yourself, reach out to the content owner and ask for the tag(s) to be removed.

4) Show the brand ghost

Once you have an idea of how you show up online, and consolidated the core content that speaks to you, your experience, and what you bring to the table in terms of capabilities, it’s time to construct a brand statement.

In this case, the brand statement is an after effect – a sort of ghost in the machine – of people’s reactions to you. Specifically, it’s a crafted feeling someone has after viewing your profile picture, reads your bio and resume, etc. –what is the message behind all of this information? Do the entries convey capability, likability, and professionalism?

This brand ghost travels ahead of any application.

It is the ethereal handshake that a company makes with you before reaching out.

This effect should stand by itself before any conversation and is controlled by the content in your online professional profiles, contributions to relevant blogs, and related social networks.

5) Prepare your narrative

For all your efforts to create links and entries to either create a profile, boost existing positive material, or minimize negative content, you can’t make everything disappear. Some material like public records (divorce, bankruptcy, etc) will be harder to make go away.

Regardless of the content that sticks, good or bad, be prepared with your personal narrative. This is the storyline that emboldens others to what you can do and why they want to work with you. Your bio, cover letter, and other introductory material to hiring folks can go a long way to set up this impression.

The key to managing your digital brand before, during, and after job search requires regular attention but managed properly, won’t require too much time or expense. If you need a professional reputation service be realistic about the results you can expect, but in most cases, the best straightforward approach is to continually add content that emphasizes your strengths and does the work of opening doors for you.

About the Author

Tony Deblauwe is the Founder of HR4Change, an Organizational Development and Human Resources consulting firm. Tony is the award-winning author of Tangling with Tyrants: Managing the Balance of Power at Work and is quoted and frequently blogs about workplace issues. Tony blogs at  http://www.workbabble.com/.