Once you’ve removed any potentially-harmful material associated with your name and thinned out all those pictures of your pets, take proactive steps to ensure that the most pertinent professional information about you rises to the top of search engine results. You have a myriad of tools to help.
LinkedIn has been around since 2002, and since mid-2016 has climbed to over 450 million users worldwide. In the process, LinkedIn became the premier professional social networking site on the web. It should therefore be your go-to option for building a professional internet profile. LinkedIn allows you to post your professional interests, a resume, highlight academic accomplishments, and relevant academic work. In general, LinkedIn is a great vehicle to advertise yourself as a mature professional – all without going through the work of creating your own website. Furthermore, LinkedIn is very aggressive in promoting itself in search results. So. by just creating a LinkedIn account you’ll have a dedicated professional webpage that is all about you that will quickly climb to the top of most online searches.
About.me is also a great option. Think of it as a digital business card. About.me lets you to link together all of your personal websites and social-media accounts (LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, Twitter). Although the site is most helpful for those of you who already make heavy use of social media for professional purposes, its simple and straightforward presentation of your professional bio, makes it an attractive and simple means by which to get information about yourself online.
Creating an About.me webpage is easy. The program walks you through an intuitive interface, and produces a stylish page that includes links to social media accounts, space for some pictures, and room for a short biography. Highly recommended for those of you just starting to develop your online public profile.
If you have a Facebook account, you should curate your Facebook public profile. Anyone can look at the public side of your Facebook page, and since that profile will automatically rise to the top of most search results, use it to your advantage. After you’ve taken down any questionable material that you may have posted to your public Facebook page, replace it with positive and professional information about yourself: education and work history, volunteer activities, professional interests. Facebook’s usefulness for creating a multilayered professional portrait is quite limited (which is why you should use LinkedIn). However, it can be used to briefly introduce who you are, which is especially important if there are quite a few people in the world with your name (i.e. Emily or Jacob Smith).
Finally, if you use Twitter, keep in mind its professional purposes.
Twitter’s 140 character limit means “tweets” tend to be informal, which means people expect less professional polish, and this makes tweets easier to write. As a result, professionals around the world use Twitter to maintain relationships through a low-stakes setting. At conferences, attendees use Twitter to communicate, connect, and share ideas. Furthermore, as Twitter has become mainstream, young professionals are finding that they can use the social media service to get “their foot in the door” and connect with potential employers, or even big names in their research field. People who would never return your email, let alone your phone call, are much more likely to spend 15 seconds and reply to your “tweet.”
Just as with Facebook, remember that Twitter is a duel-edged sword. It can be a great platform for developing contacts, but also potentially damaging if your use of the service raises questions as to your judgement.