You’ve heard the stories, the nightmare scenario where an intern calls the office to say he’s sick, and then posts some party photos where he’s surrounded by laughing friends and empty shot glasses. Then he’s called on the carpet to answer for his shenanigans, and finally is made aware of the shocking (to some) truth: that what you post on social media can impact your job! Well, unfortunately it’s not just young interns who sometimes forget about the importance of privacy filters. Sometimes it’s CEO’s and Directors of large companies. And the results can be more dire than just embarrassment or a reprimand.
And yeah, maybe you don’t have a lot of pictures of yourself swinging from a chandelier. But even if your social media profiles are pretty tame, you may still not want to have your private life on view for absolutely everyone. So the bottom line is that privacy settings on social media are important, and all of us should probably be spending a little more time making sure they are set up correctly.
So for the average Joe, how should you protect yourself? What should be the steps in your own personal privacy audit? At Metamorph, we know that the image you project online matters, and so we’ve put together a little guide for how to examine your online profiles, and start to get your online profile working for you, not against you.
Here’s how you can get started:
- Figure out your exposure – On which platforms do you have a presence? Did you set up a Pinterest account a few years ago and haven’t looked at it since then? Go through each one (here’s a list, and here’s a bigger list) and see if you have an active account. Then, download a new browser (if you usually use IE or Chrome, then download Safari, etc.) and start googling your name in this new browser to see what comes up. The idea here is to see how you may appear to someone you don’t know, and so you’ll want to avoid signing in to any platforms (any of them, even webmail) on this ‘clean browser’, so that it can remain your objective view into how you appear to a 3rd party who’s searching for information on you. Take a note of everything that comes up in the searches, and make some bookmarks of sites that you’ll want to return to for more digging.
- Clean house – Delete any profiles you don’t use anymore. Usually there is a feature to delete your account, but also look to see if you can delete all your content you posted as well. Sometimes you don’t actually remove your posts by deactivating the account. Double check that unused accounts are inactive. If appropriate, contact other locations that your searching turned up and ask them to remove your data from their site. (This can take some time the first time you do it.)
- Put in the time – For the sites you want to keep personal information on, spend some time to see what the controls mean. Most sites have pretty good features to help you understand how the filters work. Use this Help Content to build your understanding of what you need to do to keep your public face clean and clear, and your private life, private.
- Get a fresh set of eyes – Once you think you’ve gotten your privacy controls correctly configured, use your ‘clean browser’ to check your work. And if you can, also ask a friend for help too – have someone you trust (but who is maybe not a Facebook friend) run a few searches on your name, and have them try to find your vacation pictures or a post you recently left on a social media site. If anything has slipped through your filters, go back and take a look at why it is still available, and adjust as needed.
- Schedule tune-ups – Now that you have completed your initial audit and clean-up, all you need to do from here on out is maintenance. Save the steps and tools you’ve put together on your computer and set a recurring appointment with yourself to do a refresher on a regular basis. Every 6 months is fine, but every 3 months may be better. Use your frequency of social media use and number of systems you post to as a guide. The more you post and the more places you post it, the more often you should be verifying your privacy controls are correctly set.
You know that large companies value this kind of vigilance for their own brands. They consistently hire agencies and advisors to examine their company’s digital footprint, and look for stories or complaints or posts that could get them into trouble. So why not take a page from the big company playbook and institute your own privacy audit? It could take as little as 5 minutes each quarter, a small price to pay to make sure that you’re keeping pace with new platforms, new terms of service and new ways to embarrass yourself!
MetaMorph Corporation is dedicated to creating the future of personal branding. Find out more here.