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Cleaning Up & Reclaiming Your Online Reputation

11:01 PM, May 2, 2013   |    comments
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Piedmont Traid, NC -- How much dirt do you think is out there on the internet about you?; a picture of you from college having a little too much fun or maybe it's a false claim someone made about you.

It's the stuff that makes you cringe...knowing that is what someone - perhaps a potential employer or an admissions office - can easily find on Google.

And you know the saying - once something is online, it's there forever. Or is it?

WFMY News 2 found out you may not be able to completely delete your digital dirt but you can certainly restore your online reputation.

Latina Brooks is a graduating senior at UNCG who has taken the task into her own hands.

The college student has several photos with her friends having fun at different social gatherings. Brooks says she looks back now and wishes some of those photos never made it online.

"[Future employers would] probably just think like I was a party animal," Brooks said about her photos. "I used to be very, very active. I used to be on twitter, Instagram, Facebook, anything. I would just post anything; doing a lot of complaining."

Now that Brooks is getting ready to enter the so-called "real world" she hopes none of her ill-advised online activity hurts her chances of getting her dream job.

"Your reputation online is more important today than ever before. It's how people are making decisions about you: whether to hire you for a job, do business with you, all sorts of decisions," Michael Zammuto of ReputationChanger.com said.

In fact, in the Greensboro Police Department online reputation has been part of the hiring process for about four years, according to Captain Brian James, the head of the Resource Management Division.

"We ask them, hey, here's a computer. Sign on to you Facebook account. Let's take a look at it," Captain James explained. "It just kind of gives us an indication of how you carry out your private life

Which is why Brooks says she is now quickly cleaning up her online image.

"I didn't know all this stuff was out there," she said.

From vulgar rants to inappropriate pictures on old and current social media profiles, Brooks is deleting and untagging them all.

"Sometimes you'll be out with your friends and maybe you're just sleeping and people will take a picture of you and be like, 'oh, yeah, she's passed out'," Brooks explained about the perils of being social in the age of social media.

Teddy Burris, a networking strategist, says he sometimes gets questions about deleting digital dirt during his seminars.

"If something was posted or shared - a video, a picture, an image or statement - the best think you can do is to remove it and/or correct it,' Burris says he advises his students and clients.

He and Zammuto say deleting your digital dirt takes work.

First, search for what is out there.

"The first thing to do to clean up your reputation is not back off from it. Don't attempt to hide from it because people are going to find you,' Zammuto expounded.

Next, like Brooks, delete anything you have posted while asking others to delete what they have of you.

If there's still more? Time to manipulate your search results or simply "bury" the bad.

"If you build enough stuff about you and it's interesting and it's engaging, it'll eventually push down those older things," added Zammuto.

Bottom line, start early, monitor often and in moving forward, watch what you post - way before that important someone starts looking.

And that's exactly what Brooks says she's doing.

"I hope [a potential employer or graduate school admissions office] can see the progression, if they are looking right now. Because I can't delete everything, because once it's on there, it's on there but I have scaled back a lot and maybe they can see that she's had her fun and she's ready to work."

For people with more serious online reputation issues, there are companies out there to help you rebuild your personal brand.

But get ready to pay - fixing your reputation can range anywhere from hundreds of dollars to thousands a year.

Here is a list of companies to get you started: 

ReputationChanger.com (offer free monitoring service)

Reputation.com  

Big Blue Robot

Metal Rabbit Media

 

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