You Saw A Profile On Me Where?

It would seem that almost everything you want to do today requires you to go online and when you do so you are hit by a plethora of sites, potentially offering you the information you are looking for – but first you must log in and create a “profile” – right?

Often and if you are careful, these registrations are free – and the potential gain from accessing the site, combined with the promise that “We respect your privacy and will not share your information with third parties without your prior permission” is enough to make us go ahead.

This however is where the real question comes in – what actually happens to this information?

Search engines (Google, Yahoo, AOL and hundreds of others) are not human and do not, and can not respect anyones privacy. By adding your information to these sites you are automatically adding “Key Words” and SEO’s to the public data base and while it is true that certain information (email address, physical address etc.) may be blocked by the sites you are subscribing to, a lot of the information your enter, such as name, descriptions and photographs for example become “Public Property”. This process is exacerbated by Social Media Sites as well as Employment Agencies, Business Networking Sites and even Dating Agencies that are offering to find “Friends”, “Like Minded Individuals”, “Potential Employers”, “Networking Contacts” etc. on your behalf.

Now this is not always a bad thing. Customers may find you and a lucrative deal may be struck; employers may find you and that dream job offer may pop up out of the blue – alternately and despite all this, you may also win the lottery… These are the EXCEPTIONS.

Are you sure that each time you enter your personal information it is being conveyed (and it WILL be conveyed) in the manner you wish it to be perceived?

Conventionally ones Personal Image (or Brand as it is now more frequently referred to) was dictated by the way you portrayed and presented yourself in the flesh and in physical representations. That is for example: how you look, how you dress, how you speak, what you say in response to questions, as well as how your CV, cover letter, report, advertisement comes across. All of this was under your control – with or without professional advice. Now, long before your Personal Image comes into play, long before anyone goes to the trouble of actually meeting you, they will investigate your “cyber” or “virtual” profiles from the comfort of their own office or home and form an opinion of you – comprised almost entirely of information pre filtered by a “robot”.

So how does your own cyber profile hold up? Try Googling yourself and see what information you find. Nothing? Well maybe you think that is a good thing – in reality you have just lost credibility because the assumption may be that you have something to hide. A little? OK so you are “findable” but nothing is singing your praises. A lot? Right, good start, but what is the information? If it involves your exploits last weekend with incriminating photographs it may be funny to your friends but absolutely not to a potential associate, client or customer.

How then do you control what is “out there”? Firstly you do not automatically suppress such information as what a great party you had – we are all human and the days of the perfect individual being searched for by robots are limited if not over. However it does not need to be the first or most prominent information to come to light. What you need is a “Balanced Profile”, one that will be found by human or robot searches but eventually will, one way or the other be read by humans. They expect you to be human too, so yes, put what you like on your favourite social media site. By all means show that you have a sense of humour and live life to the fullest but you MUST balance this. To do this you need a sensible, accessible professional profile on a reputable platform.

This profile will indicate what you can do,will do, have done and especially what you do best. Your social conscience, your achievements and to some degree your opinions can and should also be represented here.

Of course these have to be filled in and this is in itself can be a difficult and daunting thing to do. If someone says “Tell me about yourself” then stands back and expects you to talk for 10 minutes you often end up with a mouth full of teeth; if someone asks the same thing but then continues to gently prod you with appropriate questions you may find you can happily talk about yourself for half an hour without even realising it. The actual writing of such profiles is a topic in itself and one I will return to in a later post, with tips and ideas.

Key Words – a much bandied about term these days, refers to words in your profile which will help robotic and even human searchers to find you. These however, can in fact themselves provide another hoop for you to jump through. While easily found and checked in any of many freely available search tools, they can themselves be both overdone and limiting. It is important to remember that at the end of the day you will have to acquit yourself to a human and not a robot. Ask yourself: “Does the person behind this keyword heavy profile have an actual personality?” “Could I relate to this person?” “Would I be able to work with or alongside this person?”

Taking this one step further, lets just look at Search Engines today. They may not (yet) be equipped with rational thought processes but their creators most certainly are. The latest search engines will actually disqualify key word heavy descriptions and profiles considering them to be potential spam and put them at the tail end of “outcomes” in a general search.

The upshot of all this then is that your “Online Presence” is determined by not one, but by every profile you have ever submitted online and this includes not only business related sites but personal sites such as Facebook, Twitter, We Chat, any and ALL dating sites as well as chat rooms.

I will once again stress that this is not necessarily a negative – any potential client, customer, employer wants to know that you are human and have likes, dislikes and even foibles that make you “real”, but the quantity and quality of this information is up to you.

In addition, this information needs to be “live” and constantly updated by adding to or amending your profiles. When did you ever go back and update your personal info on every site? The answer for most of us I know will be – never.

What you need is to be proactive. Firstly to go back to all the sites you use regularly – they are all different and all appeal to different aspects of your life and personality – so they all need somewhat different profiles. Where available you can use the facilities offered in some of these sites to simultaneously update others but beware – do you really want the same profile as you have on say LinkedIn shown on Facebook? I doubt it, one is for networking and the other for friends – vastly different although as I have pointed out, ultimately connected. It is however certainly worth allowing these sites to inform others when you have updated your profile on any one of them as that will always result in more profile views.

In respect of the multiple “other” sites on which you have entered data. When you can remember which they are – UPDATE; however for the main part you probably don’t know and can’t remember where you even entered such data. Not to worry, search engines today are programmed to look for the most recently amended/updated data first and will default to that if it is there. So, by keeping track of your most commonly used sites you will automatically improve your search rating and “Findability”. (Spell check does not like that word – I made it up, call it artistic license please!).

In conclusion then, your Cyber Profile is the most public and visible attribute you have today. Whether you want to market yourself for business reasons or you just care about how you come across and want to have lots of online “friends”, it needs to be groomed and maintained just as much as the rest of you. So maybe the next time you look in the mirror you need to stop; do a double take, ask yourself a question “Is this who the rest of the world sees when they look at my Profile?”.

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