When you post something online, how much thought do you put behind it before clicking publish?
We reveal more and more information about ourselves on social media without even realizing it. By right, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about this, but you don’t know who is going to check your profile, nor do you know their reasons for doing so.
Unfortunately, whether or not you like it, you should assume that if it’s a potential employer, they are going to check your social media profiles. You want to ensure that the profiles they check show a respectable and trusted individual.
With that in mind, here are a few things to consider while you’re cleaning up your profiles.
First, some ground rules:
Use common sense
If you’re using any social media site, you should be aware that anything you post online can potentially be seen publicly. You might have privacy settings, but you should take extra precautions by not posting bad language, offensive material, or anything else unprofessional.
Treat social media as if you were at a public event. If you wouldn’t say it to a group of strangers, avoid posting it online. If you’re in any way unsure about whether something will be interpreted as offensive, don’t post it. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
This may sound vain, but Googling yourself is a great way to see what kind of information about you is available to the outside world. Go into private browsing or incognito mode and type your name into the search bar. Realistically, anyone that is searching for information about you won’t go as far as the first page, so focus on the top results.
On the other hand, it wouldn’t hurt to go through the next few pages to see if there are any controversial or sensitive results. If you find such material, try your best to get it removed as it could potentially rear its head at a later stage.
Have an appropriate profile photo
Regardless of the steps you take to conceal your online profiles, remember that people can still see the cover photos if they find you. Make sure the photos are present if someone decides to visit your profile.
Ask someone to browse your profiles
If you’re constantly editing your profiles and you want peace of mind, ask a good friend or relative to search for you online to see if anything could be deemed offensive. A second opinion might help you spot things that you missed or didn’t consider the first time around.
Now for some platform-specific tips:
Check your privacy settings
If you want to keep your personal information on a tight leash, Facebook has an entire section dedicated to privacy and visibility. Through your privacy settings, you can adjust the type of content that people see when they visit your profile.
A useful, yet hidden feature in the privacy setting is public page preview. In the public search option (located in the app, games and website section of your privacy settings), you can preview how your page appears to those with whom you aren’t friends.
Another method you can use to increase your privacy is to turn off public search in privacy settings. Found underneath public page preview, this option prevents your profile from appearing on Google, Bing, or any other search engine. However, if you’ve just recently turned it off, some people will be able to find it if they searched for it previously. This is because many search engines keep a history of your searches and will retain such information for quicker results.
Turn off subscriptions
You’re not always notified when someone subscribes to your profile, so if you’re feeling a little cautious, you can switch this off in account settings under subscribers. Subscribers see content that you post publicly; if you want only your friends to see your updates, switch it off.
Untag compromising photos
You should quickly scan through your photos on Facebook and untag yourself from any that could come back to haunt you.
Limit access to old posts
Another handy method of hiding old posts is to automatically change all old posts to private. This means that only friends can see your profile. You can do it with two simple clicks. Just go into privacy settings; the option is second from bottom.
Optimize your bio
Along with your cover photo, your bio will be one of the first things people see when they click on your profile. Even if your tweets are protected, your bio will still be visible so ensure that the information there is relevant and inoffensive. Nobody minds if you put some personality into your bio, just avoid anything offensive.
Delete dodgy tweets
First, keep in mind that that few people will scroll through most of your old tweets; instead, they will use the first two pages as a benchmark.
Something truly offensive is worth deleting; however, keep the deleting to a minimum. If it’s a silly tweet, or a tweet in which you’ve expressed a strong opinion on a controversial topic such as politics or religion, you will need to decide whether it’s worth keeping.
In general, you shouldn’t delete tweets simply because you express an opinion. Consider your argument. A sweeping or generalizing statement isn’t going to win you many friends, but one that’s measured and logical is definitely worth keeping.
RELATED: The anatomy of the perfect tweet
Use relevant keywords
Your LinkedIn profile is going to be pretty clean, so you won’t have to worry about removing dodgy content. Instead, spend time optimizing your profile. The best way to start is by adding relevant keywords to your profile. This works for two reasons: It gives potential employers a snapshot of your skill set, and it helps for LinkedIn endorsements. Regardless of your opinion on endorsements, they’re a handy way of getting your expertise across.
Spend as much time working on your LinkedIn profile as you would your résumé. Consider LinkedIn your résumé online. That means all of the information should be correct and updated, and there should no spelling errors or typos.
Lauren Fisher is one of the founders of Simply Zesty, where a version of this article originally ran.