The importance of online personal branding

29th Jun 2016

In today's World nearly half of the global population is online!    

As of 2015, 3.2 billion people were online with the global population standing at 7.2 billion (Source : International Telecommunication Union). With this comes additional reflections that around 1/5th have an active Facebook account (1.39 billion), Twitter runs at around 305 million penetration and Linked in has 414 million users, with Instagram just behind at 400 million in the same timeframe. 

Millennials and the Z generation have a high % uptake, having hardly known a time when social media was not in existence and taking it as a normal part of everyday life. Increasingly it is becoming 2nd nature  to post and share on social media both work and personal news and information.

However  your online Brand and Bio-graphy can say a lot about you now and in the future to people you did not intent and in ways you did not expect. 

Employers you apply to,  customers you approach, friends, family and dates can all see more about you today than ever before in history.  

People openly post their birthdays, contact information, telephone numbers, personal family pictures (tagging friends), when they are going on holiday, etc - Many do not limit who can see this information and with most social network profiles defaulting to fall open, anyone can see all of this without restriction, not only those you allow or connect to! So if nothing else much of this can pose a security risk, with maiden name and date of birth still surprisingly being used by many (including banks) as identification methods in this socially open world!

Add to this daily blogs many post to, acting as their new world journal  and it is easier than ever to find out about someone, their likes, dislikes, persona l facts , friends, associations, affiliations and opinions. However all of this has impacts that you may have not consciously considered.

The employment world has changed and social media is an inherent part of the recruitment process with Linkedin being a major enabler to this transformation. 
From recent recruitment surveys;
•    93% of recruiters are likely to look at a candidate’s social media profile
•    48% of employers use Google or other search engines to dig up any digital dirt on candidates 
•    80% will check a candidates Linkedin profile
•    44% of firms check a candidates Facebook account 
•    27 percent of recruiters and/or hiring managers search a Twitter feed
So thinking that what you post on social and how you look online is not important,  is a dangerous  assumption.   
Going further than this there are now businesses that will help companies and individuals protect their online brand. if you had bad online reviews, commentary or news it is very hard if not impossible to remove it from the internet and search engines. But what if you could make it so that people are unlikely to find or view it?  This is what you can now pay firms to do, they post new information and ensure using a variety of techniques that they get high rankings, pushing the badness down on the page rankings. Are most people really going to dig down to the 8th, 9th or further page on search rankings? We all do it - look at perhaps the 1st 2-3 pages and then move on.
I can see a time when we will see a news headline stating "Girl changes her name by deed poll to disconnect Social Media Past".  It will be easier to do this than try to get away from the years of social media college pictures on instagram and Facebook, photos you are tagged in, discussions you were mentioned in etc

So what should or can you do?
Appreciate that what you post will be seen and by people you may not have intended to see it. Consider  locking down any profiles you deem as personal, check what others can see, (ask someone not connected to you if you can take a look from their profile).  Search for yourself on Google and take a look at the 1st few pages others would look at.  Make your social photos professional and consistent across platforms and your Bio headlines similarly so. A few minutes tidy up can give a far more polished and controlled view of who you are.
You could of course choose not to partake - stay off social media all together and this is your prerogative, but appreciate that in most industries you will find recruiters and potential employers will certainly look for you online. Not being there can also send a message! (in the tech sector not being on social for a sales or marketing role can be a major disadvantage and doesn't show you as being 'with it'  and up to date).  If you are in a sector where peers, customers etc are not on social and you are sure of this, this option remains, but as the younger generation enters the workspace this will become less and less so across all sectors.
Do you need to become a social media expert, no.  Do you need to wake up and smell the Social ad make pragmatic steps and decisions, I would suggest so.

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