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How to protect your online personal brand

Online branding

Corporate brands like Coca-Cola® beverages and Apple® devices convey an instantly recognizable message. But good branding also applies to individual job seekers, says Donna Meldrum, MA, a licensed professional counselor and career coach with Phoenix Career Services™.

“A lot of companies put out a mission statement that defines their core values, business strategy and how they want to present themselves to the public,” she explains. “Your personal brand does the same thing. It defines who you are and what you have to offer.”

A well-developed personal brand can help you stand out to potential employers — but your online activities can damage it or even cost you a job if you’re not careful. Here, Meldrum explains how to protect your online brand:


Take charge.

Don’t ignore or shut down your social media accounts when job-searching, Meldrum says. “If you have no online footprint, that can make you look out of touch,” she explains. Instead, she recommends ensuring that whatever comes up when employers plug your name into a search engine is positive and professional.

“Choose a few social media sites and stay on top of them instead of trying to be everywhere at once,” Meldrum says, noting that your LinkedIn® account should come first. Depending on your needs, you also might consider Instagram®, Pinterest® and Twitter® sites, among others. She also recommends keeping a website and blog where you post your latest accomplishments and insights.

Update all of your accounts at least monthly — the more often, the better, Meldrum stresses, pointing out that recent information usually ranks higher on search engines. “You can also give employers a list of the URLs you want them to see, instead of letting them search for you,” she says.

Maintain a consistent message.

No matter what you do or say online, always assume potential employers will find it. “Before you post or share anything, ask yourself, ‘Would I want my clients or colleagues to see this?’ If the answer is no, don’t post it.”

Anything you publish online should reflect the assets you can offer potential employers, she adds, such as your work ethic, knowledge of industry trends and cordial peer relationships, as well as personal hobbies that show you’re well-rounded, like an interest in cooking or travel. Meldrum recommends frequently checking social media profiles for inaccurate information.

Monitor privacy settings.

Social media sites often reset to default settings with every software update, so Meldrum says to check them often. “Don’t assume the information you posted privately a month ago is still private,” she says. Better yet, don’t post private information online at all. “There’s no such thing as a personal life on the Internet,” she argues.

Avoid controversial statements.

Think twice before posting potentially divisive content online.

“You want to appeal to as wide an audience as possible,” Meldrum says. “Whenever you make inflammatory remarks, you are limiting peoples’ interest in you.” Engaging in a respectful dialogue with others that includes different viewpoints is acceptable, while risqué photos and tasteless jokes are not, she emphasizes.

Manage your contact list.

Your social media contacts also should reflect your personal brand — so avoid anyone who engages in online behavior that doesn’t meet your values, Meldrum says. She recommends reaching out to accomplished professionals you admire who can share insights that can help you grow professionally.

Get endorsements and testimonials.

Showing how you’ve impressed colleagues, customers and employers in the past can boost your online brand.

“LinkedIn allows you to collect professional endorsements from others in your network, so take advantage of that,” she says, while professional recommendations on your website or blog also serve as online brand builders. “The more positive information layers you have out there, the better.”

Related articles:

Coca-Cola is a registered trademark of the Coca-Cola Co.
Apple is a trademark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.
LinkedIn is a registered trademark of LinkedIn Corp. and its affiliates in the U.S. and/or other countries.
Instagram is a registered trademark of Instagram LLC
Pinterest is a registered trademark of Pinterest Inc.
Twitter is a trademark of Twitter Inc. in the U.S. and other countries.
Facebook is a registered trademark of Facebook Inc.