Kelly Gibbons, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Colorado, is founder and managing partner of Main & Rose, a personal branding firm for top CEOs, entrepreneurs, authors and celebrities that helps clients tell their story with significant, lasting impact. We asked Kelly to share her insight on the importance of digital identity. Here's what she said:
Here's a primary paradox of the 21st century: As the internet and social media help us build more connections across the globe, we are losing control of who we are online. In my role leading a personal branding firm, I have witnessed this challenge with clients globally in the past year more than ever―and it's not just CEOs or government clients. Everyone with a digital presence is at risk for presenting a less-than-ideal image online.
Today, the need for reclaiming your digital identity could not be more significant. All of us―but Millennials in particular―need to protect their online presence for a number of reasons, ranging from fighting fraud and identity theft to presenting your best self online for potential employers, to strengthening your brand to enhance success.
Here are 10 ways to take back your digital identity.
- Remove old posts. Graduating college or looking for a new job? It may be time to clean up your social media accounts and delete embarrassing or inappropriate photos or posts. If posts appear on other websites or accounts you can't access, ask the administrators to remove them.
- Remember the Golden Rule. Never post anything you wouldn't be comfortable with anyone― your mother, your boss, your landlord―seeing. Assume that nothing is private, even if your accounts are blocked from public view. There are many ways of accessing private accounts; someone with access can simply screenshot a post and send it to others.
- Win the SEO game. Search Engine Optimization is key, particularly if you're looking to boost your personal or business brand. If your name or company doesn't show up on the first page of a Google search, clients won't take you seriously―even worse, they likely won't find you in the first place. While it's nearly impossible to get rid of the posts that are pushing down your targeted search results (or to eliminate old posts about you that you don't like), you can bury such posts by creating new, appealing content and linking it to websites with high domain authority. Vimeo and Crunchbase are two good places to start.
- Remove cached content. Sometimes, even long after you've been deleted from a website (by an old employer, for example), your name still shows up in a related Google search. This can happen if the page is cached. Contact Google and request removal of the content so it will no longer appear in searches.
- Use your resources. A number of websites allow you to check what personal information is available online, digging further than a simple Google search of your name can go. Other services allow you to remove yourself from data collection sites, such as whitepages.com, for a small fee.
- Change your password. It's a basic step, but you should be changing your passwords every four months. Don't use your name, birthday or other identifiable information. If you're worried about remembering a password, come up with a sentence and use the first letter of each word.
- Two-factor authentication. If you're not doing this now, your accounts are not fully secure. This extra layer of security makes it significantly harder for hackers to gain access to your data.
- Be careful what you click on. Your clicks can be digitally recorded. Companies aren't supposed to, but many track what you're clicking on and share it with third parties. Before you click, think about who you'd want to have that information.
- The nuclear option. Faced with so many potential pitfalls, some people choose to opt out of an online presence altogether. While you can never fully erase your online presence, you can remove your social media presence. But be sure to do it properly and completely; simply logging off won't make your digital presence disappear.
Both online and IRL, it's best to err on the side of caution. As Ben Franklin said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."