For every freelance blogger, social media can be Pandora’s box.
There’s the good:
- The ability to send pitches and letters of introduction at warp speed
- Instant access to bucketloads of research
- The potential to connect with clients, readers, and other writers worldwide
There’s also the bad. Come on. You know what I’m talking about. The video where you’re dancing drunk on a table singing an off-key version of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” The quickie post you passionately wrote, didn’t proofread, but still pressed publish.
Then there’s the ugly. Personal information — social security numbers or credit reports — leaked to the masses. Off-color comments trolls made about your writing or business that haunt the first page of Google.
And worst of all: the shiver-worthy nude photos and sex videos uploaded to the cybersphere by vengeful ex-lovers. (Let’s all hope that never happens to us.)
Worried your negative search results will have your clients pushing the escape key? Don’t fret.
Pull out your virtual shovel, roll up your sleeves, google or bing yourself, and follow these seven steps to bury your social media skeletons — and polish your online reputation.
1: Hit the delete key
Do you own the offensive content and control the site it’s on? Wait, you do? What are you waiting for?
Go take it down immediately!
Don’t know how?
Here’s a quick-n-dirty guide to help you delete nose-wrinkling content from a few of the web’s “king” social media sites. [Note: These example screenshots feature content that I wouldn’t ever want to delete!]
- Click on your profile. The profile button is currently located to the left of the “compose a new tweet” button.
- Scroll down your profile page and find the tweet that you want to delete.
- Click on the ellipses (…) button. It’s on the far right side — beside the bar graph icon — at the bottom of your tweet.
- Scroll down and select the “Delete Tweet” command, which you’ll find below “Pin to Your Profile Page”.
- Go to your profile page. The profile button is located to the left of the “Search Facebook” bar.
- Scroll down and find the post you want to delete.
- Click on the downward arrow (∨). at the top, right-hand corner of your post.
- Then scroll down and click “Delete”. It’s below the “Hide from Timeline” option.
- Go to your profile by clicking the profile button, located beside the home button.
- Scroll down and click on “Your Updates”, which is the third option you see.
- Click on the downward arrow (∨). It’s located at the top, right-hand corner of your update. Then select the first option: “Delete”.
- Go to the “Posts” button, located between the “About” and “Collections” buttons.
- Click on the downward arrow (∨). Like on Facebook and LinkedIn, it’s located at the top, right-hand corner of your post.
- Then select “Delete Post”. It’s directly underneath the “Edit Post” option.
2: Ask the owner to take it down
If your social media faux pas is floating around on a site that doesn’t belong to you, you can respectfully ask the owner to remove it.
That’s impossible if you don’t know who owns the site, but you can find out by punching its URL into Whois Domain Tools – here’s an example of the results page.
Of course, there’s always the chance that if you’re dealing with someone particularly spiteful — say a jealous ex-boyfriend, dissatisfied customer, or an internet troll — they’ll retaliate by increasing their internet activity and dragging your name through the mud. But most decent, sane people will just be nice and take it down.
3: Contact the hosting company
If you hear crickets, it’s time to pull out the big guns and contact the site’s hosting company. To locate a website’s host, look for the words “powered by” at the bottom of the home page or use Who’s Hosting This. Then contact them via live chat, email, or social media.
Most web hosts don’t allow libel, copyright infringement, or unauthorized personal material: the use of your name, contact information, or any other “personal material” by the author without your written permission.
Some hosts will even disable the content immediately. Others will need gentle prodding. So you may need to send a couple of follow-up emails and a hard copy to their physical address.
4: Ask Google to hide it
In May 2014, Europe’s top court approved the highly controversial right to be forgotten law. It forces Google —which owns approximately 90% of the UK’s search market — to remove out of date, excessive, inadequate, or irrelevant data that are not in the public’s best interest. Even though there’s no guarantee Google will act on your removal request, there’s no harm in filing a free privacy request if you live in Europe.
If you live in the United States, Google’s removal rules are stricter. They’ll delete posts on inappropriate, malicious, pornographic, and spammy sites. They’ll also remove your basic contact information, inappropriate or unflattering selfies, and handwritten signature from the cybersphere.
5: Cover it up with something better
Sometimes — no matter how hard you try — you can’t get offensive content removed.
Luckily, according to Hubspot, 75% of people (for example, your clients) never scroll past the first page of search results. The remaining quarter usually don’t click past the third page.
That means if the offending item isn’t on the first three pages of any search engine, just fuhgeddaboudit. It’s basically in Google’s wasteland.
Even better, the number of clicks per link, according to an AOL study, decreases dramatically based on its position. A link in the first position receives a 53% click rate while a link in the fifth position only gets clicked 4% of the time.
In other words, if there’s negative stuff showing up on search engine results pages about you, then you need to push those links further down by cranking out killer content (preferably in exchange for cash!), posting thoughtful comments on high-ranking blogs, and launching profiles on popular social media platforms.
Not sure where to begin? Download my free handout “50 High-Ranking SEO Sites: Bury Your Negative Search Results in Google’s Wasteland” and start building your kick ass online presence.
6: Pay for professional help
Companies like Reputation (1K/mo), Metal Rabbit (10K/mo), or BrandYourself ($399/mo) can clean up your online reputation. Their services are tax deductible, but they’re still expensive, costing $120K-5K per year. However, BrandYourself does offer a free, DIY three link booster program.
Regardless of which reputation company you choose, buyer beware. If an agency says they can erase your scandalous rep overnight, run for the hills. They’re likely using black-hat SEO techniques: paid links, spam comments, duplicate content, invisible text, keyword stuffing, and cloaking–creating different content for readers and Googlebot. While effective, these dark-side techniques might get your blog banned from search engines. Cringe.
7: Mind your digital footprint
Repeat after me: ‘The Internet is forever. Nothing you post online is truly ever private.’
Today’s mental meltdown or soapbox fest can become tomorrow’s monster.
That’s because anything you post — whether it’s in an email, text message, or private message — could potentially fall into the hands of hackers or be archived by groups like Politwoops.
Even after you click delete, most social media sites will hold on to your data. And, unfortunately, there are no loopholes. When you agree to Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, and other platform’s terms, you allow “search engines and other third parties…[to] retain copies of your public information” and store data “ for a commercially reasonable time for backup, archival, and/or audit purposes.” However, you can download Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban’s free Cyberdust app. It destroys messages, even from company servers, 100 seconds after the recipient reads it.
The moral of the story: think before you post. If you do that, you’ll won’t have to spend time digging graves for your social media skeletons. And you’ll have more time to spend doing what you love — blogging.
Has your reputation ever flatlined? Were you able to jolt it back to life? Share your social media snafus and tips with me in the comments, or tweet me, @Poemgirl88, with the hashtag #PandorasBox.
Jeffrey Hill says
Appreciate the tips, Cherese! Social media really can be quite the slippery slope. That’s led me to be pretty conservative with my usage of it – but I’ve always felt a bit iffy with social media in general.
However, when used properly (and hopefully not too embarrassingly, lol) it is a pretty vital tool for networking. Just always keep your digital footprint in mind and you should be ok.
Cherese Cobb says
You’re welcome! I’m glad that you liked my tips. ?
While you can’t prevent what other people put online about you, you can control what you post, your digital footprint.
I also use social media pretty sparingly. Facebook is just for close friends. I use LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter-which short format is my favorite. (It’s a social media espresso!☕).
Chad Nikolic says
Damn it, I’d hoped that no one had seen my Adele video!
In all seriousness, great post Cherese. 🙂 Protecting our reputations is important and you gave a bunch of useful, actionable tips. Cheers!
Cherese Cobb says
Thank you for your kind comments. 🙂 I’m really glad that you liked the advice. <3
Another interesting factoid: search engine results change based on your geographic location. So, if you Google or Bing yourself in China, you'll get different links than if you were in, say, England.
Also, please send your Adele video right away. I also have one. Doesn't everybody? We can swap them. (Of course, I'm just kidding. Or am I?) 😉
Chad Nikolic says
That’s cool! I had no idea about the location thing.
Consider Adele video swap a go!
Cherese Cobb says
Results also change based on the devices–PCs, tablets, or mobile phones–that clients are using to google you.
However, sixty percent of people do their searches via phone, so google or bing yourself on an android or iPhone and you should be good to go!
Elvis Michael says
This especially applies to the average person that easily gives into heated arguments online. It’s easy for someone to start name-calling, and then proceed to even make threats. Im sure your prospects and clients wouldn’t want to see that from their writer or freelancer.
Best advice is to not ever do anything you wouldn’t want others to see, as it might catch up to you later. Simple, yet effective.
Thanks for the awesome read, Cherese.
Cherese Cobb says
You’re welcome. And you’re right; this especially applies to people with short fuses. My favorite line to drop: This is America. You are entitled to your opinion–which I respect–and I’m entitled to mine. The other person, unless their a total boob, usually drops their name calling and threats.
Having had an experience where digital records bit me squarely in the arse, I’ve been careful to put online only those things I’m comfortable repeating to my mother. Unfortunately, my mother has a potty mouth. 😉
Still, I think it helps to ask yourself “Would I want to defend this to a hiring manager?” out there before sending it or posting it. And to keep the Facebook page private. Also, because the US has such a polarized political environment, my political opinions, which I never think belong in business, remain on Facebook and not on LinkedIn, Google+, etc.
Cherese Cobb says
We should brand that: “the mommy test.” (I love it!) But seriously, if it’d make your mammy blush (unless she’s a potty mouth 🙂 ), it’d probably make your client uneasy.
I also keep my religious, political beliefs, and health status, for the most part, to myself. Though, sometimes I do use them as an out during a really bad date. 😉 (The old call me twenty minutes into the date to tell me that granny fell off the roof stringing Christmas lights in July is a little too cliche’.)
Is it true across the board that nothing is private? I’m in a facebook group that SAYS no one can see what I post there… Not that I would be ashamed, but some of the ideas I express could be misunderstood by others and as it is a “help” group, and I’m thinking of some of the folks who get “help” there…with family…and snarky friends, etc…. Thanks!
Cherese Cobb says
Hi Katharine (I love that spelling!),
I googled your Facebook group and couldn’t find it anywhere (Yeah!), so you’re probably safe…as long as your snarky friends and family don’t get invited into the group! 😉
Lem Enrile says
Glad that I have separated my personal and business social media accounts. 😀 And named my personal accounts differently… far from my real name.
I didn’t know about #7! It truly pays off to think before you post.
When I googled myself, I found results I didn’t even know were associated with me!
For example, I completed an internship at a non-profit in Berkeley (and was hired afterward), but I’m listed as a volunteer at said company in UC Santa Cruz’s volunteer resources:
Luckily didn’t find any dirt, and this article will help me continue to protect my social media reputation 🙂 thanks Cherese!
Cherese Cobb says
You’re welcome! 🙂 I’m glad that you didn’t find any dirt, but I’m not surprised that you found results that you didn’t know where there. I had a lot of websites that said I was still a teaching intern instead of a freelance writer.
Being a volunteer listed in UC Santa Cruz’s records might be a good thing. At least the result is positive, and it makes me think of you as a caring, wonderful person (which I’m sure you are 🙂 ). Though it hasn’t been updated since 2015.
As for #7, social media sites shouldn’t put their terms in conditions in such tiny fonts! Though I still kind of doubt it, maybe some people would actually read them.
It’s true that when poorly handled, social media can cause serious damage to your reputation. As a blogger or a business person, you ought to review your posts before you make them public.
Otherwise, you’ll have some mess to clean up. It’s good to know that you can contact the hosting company for help. Thanks.
Cherese Cobb says
You’re welcome! I’m glad I could help. 🙂
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