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How to Clean up and Refine Your Online Presence

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When you send your resume to a hiring manager, meet someone new at a party, or add a Facebook friend, there’s a strong possibility that they will Google you. Are you confident that they’ll like what they see?

You don’t have to make a living as an influencer or blogger to care about your online presence. Even if you don’t use the internet in your professional life at all, it can be valuable to consider what your online life says about you. And if you do use the web professionally, having a well-crafted online presence can open new doors for your career.

But if you’re like most people, you’ve probably already spent some years posting things online without thinking much about how they reflect you. This means you need to do a bit of refining, so you can feel proud of what people see when they look you up. Not sure where to start? Here’s what you need to know.

Consider Your Brand

Before you tackle this project, you might want to devote some time to defining your personal brand. Even if you don’t decide to build a complete and carefully defined personal brand, give it some consideration. This will help you know how to change your online presence, so it reflects you more accurately. You’ll also see that some of the steps listed here overlap with the steps required to build a personal brand.

Inventory Your Online Presence

Now, it’s time to make a list of everything about you that’s online. This includes all of your social media sites, email addresses, websites or online portfolios, mentions of you in other people’s posts or articles, and anything else.

Most importantly, you’ll need to focus on refining anything that has your name attached to it, since most people will Google you by name. (Make sure to Google yourself as part of this step.) However, keep in mind that even things posted under a pseudonym or private account can often be traced back to you with some mild online sleuthing. Consider whether those things will reflect you well if someone actually links them to you.

If you have both professional and personal accounts and sites, you may want to divide this inventory into two lists. While you’ll want to clean up the things on both lists, you can start with the professional ones first. But don’t forget that your personal and professional online life can easily overlap, too.

Define Your Goals

Now is an excellent time to figure out which, if any, goals you’d like your online presence to help you achieve. For example, are you hoping to get new clients for your business? To meet new potential friends? To grow a list of professional connections? Deciding what you want your online presence to help you do can drive the way you choose to refine it.

Make a Plan

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With your goals in mind, you can make a plan for how to change everything that you listed in your inventory.

You should have a different plan for each site and profile. For example, maybe you’re hoping to establish yourself as a travel writer. As part of your plan, you might revise your LinkedIn to reflect any relevant travel writing experience. You might also delete your old Instagram and start a travel-focused new one, or aim to get 100 new Twitter followers in the next month with travel-related posts.

Everyone’s plans will be different. Your plan might involve deleting old accounts, updating your bios, creating new email signatures, or posting your latest work. It might even include posting lots of new content to “bury” a negative mention of you in an old online article. Regardless, the goal is to have everything online reflect you as well as possible by the time you’ve completed these steps. It’s also helpful to work on one site at a time, starting with the ones you use most—or the ones that are most relevant to your career.

Ask for Feedback

While you’re in the process of making these changes, or after you’re done, ask a few of your friends or coworkers for some feedback. Ask them to Google you and tell you what they find and what they think. Or, ask them to review any specific sites that you have questions about. You might have a clear idea of what you want your online presence to say about you. However, you can’t be sure that that message is getting conveyed until you hear how it comes across to others.

Develop a Maintenance Plan

Once you’ve done the work to refine your online presence and clean up old, irrelevant content, you’ll need to transition into maintenance work. It’s valuable to make a second plan now for how you’ll keep your online presence relevant and true to you.

For example, you could decide to post once a week on Twitter and every other day on Instagram, to ensure you keep new relevant content coming in for your followers. Or you could plan to review your online portfolio once a month and update it with your latest work.

The right maintenance plan for you will depend on your goals and typical internet activity. If you use social media casually to stay connected with friends, you may not need a strict, organized plan. But if you use it to find new clients, you should approach your online presence as seriously as though it were part of your daily job.

There are also lots of tools to help you keep up with this plan. For example, you can use a platform like Hootsuite to schedule your social media posts even when you’re not on your devices. Or you could set a Google Alert for the name of your business, so you know every time it gets mentioned online.

Cleaning up your online presence may not be the most fun or glamorous task. But it can be incredibly valuable for growing your career and giving you new opportunities to connect with people. When you have an online presence you can feel proud of, you’ll never have to feel nervous at the prospect of someone Googling your name—and that alone can make the work worthwhile.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a Seattle-based writer and editor with a Master's in Writing Studies from Saint Joseph's University. Her work has appeared in publications like Racked, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and Rum Punch Press. She was awarded a 2017 Writing Between the Vines residency.  Read Full Bio »

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