Many of us who use social media are hesitant to create an account with public access. It is very common to use the “Request Access Only” privacy settings, whether this is on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or even here on WordPress. This is because protecting your brand is of the utmost importance in this never-ending age of the internet footprint. You might not consider yourself as a brand, but anyone who has applied to college, internships, jobs, etc, should be hyper-aware of who you share your information with, what you are putting out into the world, and considering how it could be perceived by future educators, employers, or even a future a spouse.
When I post things online, sure – I do not always make the best judgment calls when voicing a strongly worded opinion or when I tweet angrily at the MTA. More often than not, I use more swear words than a sailor. At this point, my past posts are what they are and I cannot change them, rather I make them a part of my life journey on the internet. This is why taking control of the information, its viewers, and what you follow is so so important!
1. Setting up your privacy
I have different settings across the many platforms that I utilize as a modern-age twenty-something. Facebook and Instagram are my more secured profiles. You must request access to be my friend before viewing any section of my profile. This feature allows me to select exactly who has the full access pass to my online life. I don’t just hand out this pass to anyone. There is a lot of digging that goes on before I press the “Accept” button, and even then I can still go back and “Un-friend” or “Un-follow” if I see something I am not sure I want to be associated with.
My Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and WordPress are all a part of the more public online version of myself. Some days, my Twitter follows are flooded with the weirdest of accounts, but I make sure to review these thoroughly in efforts to protect who and what my brand is associated with. For example, there seems to be an inundation of porn-based Twitter accounts lately. This week alone, I have seen 15-20 requests from accounts like this. There is no reason they follow me other than to gain more followers. As soon as I see one of these accounts has followed my account I do two things: Block and Report.
I block and report these accounts for a few reasons. First, because I really do not want them looking at my account. Who knows who this person is? Normally, the name is a bunch of nonsense, the profile is full of links to porn sites, and the pictures are of breasts, vaginas, and butts. I don’t want my timeline full of that. The second reason is that I fear that these accounts could be hackers attempting to gain access to my personal information. Finally, I report these accounts because sexually explicit accounts such as these should not be on Twitter. I feel like Twitter accounts with erotic content need to have some substance to them or a real purpose other than spamming users with pictures of pussy.
2. Managing your followers and who you follow
It is really important to closely monitor some of the people who try to engage with you on social media. I make it my business to follow accounts and accept requests from users that reflect my values as a person in society and the working world. If you are a conservative Catholic with Pro-Life values, you are probably not going to want to follow Southern New England Planned Parenthood or any of the women’s pro-choice movement accounts. However, you might follow and friend other folks online who believe in the same things you do as a way of building your own personal network and breeding a safe online environment for yourself.
Personally, I choose to avoid most accounts that conflict with my liberal, left-wing, pro-choice, BLM, Clinton supporting beliefs. I also try to follow as many accounts that have to do with my interests in the publishing industry, creative writing, and becoming a published author. When a new account follows me or requests to follow me, the first thing I do is check to see what content is viewable to me. If I can see pictures they have posted or articles they share, then I click through and see if their values align with mine. As long as there is nothing hateful, discriminatory, or Donald Trump-related, then I will often allow this account to follow mine. I do not always follow back, but I will, 99% of the time, allow you to view my account.
Being pickier when accepting follower requests gives you the power over your content. You would not want some Muslim-hate group to take an article you wrote about inclusivity, twist the words around, and use your name in something awful. As a life rule, I do not give access to anyone whom I have no association with if they make crude jokes about women or post pictures or articles about guns/gun violence.
Part of managing who you follow, in a less extreme way, is just thinking before friending all of your co-workers or associates. Do you manage people at work? Maybe think before friending them and posting pictures of your boozy Christmas parties or that kegger that you went to last week. What is the company culture? What is your position within the company? If you work in customer service, perhaps try not to bash your customers on your page because you never know who will find you and see it, even with privacy settings.
3. Controlling the information
The final piece of online brand management is just always remaining true to yourself. Post the things that you see value in and speak from the heart. Share articles that have accurate information, are from reliable sources, and will actually contribute to the conversation. Always write eloquently, check spelling and grammar, and check your facts. When I write anything, I use Grammarly. You can download it as an extension on your browser and it will underline anything that needs a correction. It is an incredibly handy little tool when you are writing online! The next time you are just sitting and playing around on your laptop, go to incognito mode on Google Chrome and just search your name. See what comes up and look at it through someone else’s eyes. Have a friend or family member do this as well as a way of checking yourself. It is always better to monitor your online image from the start rather than have a stranger approach you and dredge up content that might be embarrassing or better-off-buried.
Brand management is not something I talk about professionally, but my hope is that others can use my suggestions and lessons as a way of better monitoring their online presence.