Social media connects us to those who matter, whether friends, family, coworkers or prospective employers. As a result, we’ve become dependent on them, spending nearly two hours a day on the more popular platforms. Almost 54% of the global population has at least one social media account. Unfortunately, this usage is also increasing levels of digital footprint.
What is a Digital Footprint?
Simply put, a digital footprint is any information about you available online. This information can come from online publications (like newspapers or blogs), browsing history, tagged photographs, and social media accounts. While still a relatively new concept, a digital footprint can be challenging to remove, mainly if it’s information you haven’t personally shared.
Why Should You Perform a Social Media Check?
Social media can be a fantastic service if used safely and correctly. For many, sharing thoughts, memes, feelings, and photographs with those closest seems harmless. However, if you’re trying to find a new job, apartment or build a public image, it can work against you. More than ever, prospective employees and landlords are scanning through applicants’ social media accounts before the interview process.
What Do Prospective Employers or Landlords Look for Online?
Your social media accounts serve as a candid preview of the authentic version of yourself. Potential employers and landlords are looking to see who they’re inviting into their establishment before committing to a poorly fitting match. Although they’re not going to read every single post, they want to see whether you have a solid first impression.
Things like post content, communication skills, and professionalism are all important in the corporate world. After all, when they hire you, you’re representing the company. Likewise, they’re going to check for any qualifications you mentioned in your resume. If a university degree is mandatory, verification of these skills can save time and money. Should you be concerned, locking down any social accounts should be the first thing you do.
Understanding Public Visibility on Social Media Platforms
Having a public profile gives anyone access to anything you post – good or bad. A public social media account allows people to scroll through your status updates, photos, shared content, and occasionally, comments you’ve made on public forums. It also allows anyone to view pages or groups you’re a part of too. These posts can easily be traced back to you through your name or email address.
Having a private account will still show in search results but will limit visibility to only connected accounts. In addition, you’ll have the option to restrict various account features to the public, from posts to photographs. Finally, specific social media accounts will prevent tagging you in multiple posts unless approved by you first, giving you control over your digital footprint.
Using a Paid Website to Track Social Media Accounts
Although using search engines provides decent results, there are many times that tracing all social media accounts is crucial for your digital footprint. After all, if others are ordering a background check to discover your online activity, it may be worth your investment to do the same. Look for a reputable site that includes multiple search options: name, email, and phone number. Some websites don’t offer to review social accounts; it’s always important to confirm they report on those results before purchase.
Using a Search Engine to Trace Social Media Accounts
A simple search on the web will show countless accounts or social media profiles connected to your information. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always index the accounts in order or relevance. Occasionally, finding multiple individuals with similar information happens. In addition, specific social media accounts may not show in the results, depending on the platform – leaving you vulnerable.
What to do Once You Receive the Report
Take a look at all accounts connected with your name or email address. Review both the account details, creation date (if provided), and the platform it uses. While you may not remember making that fake account ten years ago to spy on your ex-boyfriend, if it’s still showing up, it needs to be deleted. Take a few moments to consider your content from an outside perspective.
Essential questions to ask:
- Would I be offended reading this as an employer?
Controversial posts are often red flags for a potential employer. This content includes posting hateful, mean, or deliberately argumentative comments. Although topics like humanitarian, politics, or religion aren’t banned as conversation starters online, avoid them whenever possible. Remember, you’ll eventually represent a company or organization, and you’ll be attached to their brand and image too.
- Would I be Comfortable with my Children or Elderly Family Reading this?
Adult, twisted, sexual, or skewed humor can be a risky move online, especially if you’re trying to get ahead in the corporate world. Most employers are looking for candidates that match their working environment, not potential liabilities. Although you can always share risky or taboo information on social media, it’s best to lock down that content to “friends only” so it’s not traceable on the internet. Chances are, if the content isn’t something you’d be comfortable showing your children or your elderly grandma, your potential boss isn’t going to enjoy it either.
- Are my privacy settings where they should be?
Having a social media account doesn’t mean you need to post everything for the world to see. Having a private social media account can help protect you against identity theft, image theft, and potential security risks. Unless you make an income as an online influencer or social media personality, you can likely maintain a private account without long-term issues.