You never get a second chance to make a first impression. And these days, that first impression is just as likely to be delivered by your online presence as in a face-to-face meeting.
The change of season isn’t just a change in temperature. It’s an opportunity to stop and take stock before winter comes. And while it’s natural to update your wardrobe for the weather, it’s also a great time to give your online presence a seasonal upgrade.
In fact, back in 2011, Forbes magazine predicted that within ten years our online presence will have replaced our resumes. But there’s more to presenting your digital self than uploading a new Facebook profile photo; it’s as much about what happens behind the scenes as it is about what people see on the outside.
For every business, a strong online presence is crucial, but I want to look at how to get your personal online house in order.
So here are three areas in your digital life that could be most in need of a seasonal shake up.
Just as an over-cluttered wardrobe can create chaos in your life, so too can a poorly managed inbox. My tip: simplicity is your friend. There’s no need to organise emails with a labyrinthine structure of folders and sub-folders.
The first step to streamlining your inbox is to archive all but the most current and important conversations. It doesn’t matter if you’re using Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo Mail, the search function on modern email services is so good you don’t need to bother filing by topic or category. Archiving mail will streamline your email experience and leave you feeling lighter than ever.
As an aside, you could consider creating a dedicated account purely for spam-like competition entries, marketing offers and even some online shopping. Check it once every week or two and delete the non-essential junk. Spam might seem insignificant but it can add up. You won’t believe the difference this will make to your main account.
Even if your company hasn’t embraced the paperless office, there’s no reason you should rely on antiquated methods when it comes to your contact list. Again, it’s the clutter argument. If your wallet is stuffed with business cards and your workspace littered with scraps of paper covered with hastily scrawled email addresses and phone numbers your productivity will suffer.
Get in the habit of digitizing every contact as soon as possible. With smartphones never more than a reach into your pocket away there’s really no excuse. And thanks to cloud services like iCloud and Google Sync, as well as the more permanent connections LinkedIn can deliver, you’ll only need to input once for the contact to appear across all your devices: simple and elegant, like a nice new suit.
(I’d apologise for the strained metaphor here, but I’m going to keep on straining it to breaking point throughout this article. So bear with me!)
Now that you’ve tidied up behind the scenes – your ‘wardrobe’, if you will – it’s time to take a look at what other people see; or what you ‘wear’. Told you I was going to strain that metaphor.
3. Social media
Alan Henry outlines the necessity of having a presentable social media presence in this post on lifehacker.com:
It’s no secret that friends, nosy family members, and potential employers will all take to Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to look for more information about you when they want it. In the case of family and friends, they already know you. When it comes to potential employers or people interested in working with you, it’s important to make sure that the things they find about you are representative of who you are (or who you want them to think you are.)
First step is to take a look in the mirror. Google yourself to get an idea of where you’ll show up if a potential (or current) employer searches for you. Then do the same with your social media accounts (remembering to log out before you search).
Next it’s time to do some tailoring. Just as you pick a specific outfit to convey a specific message, your various social media platforms offer you the chance to present yourself a certain way (for good or ill). Highlight admirable interests and list the skills that make you invaluable on LinkedIn. You can control what you want people to know about you.
Develop a clear idea of who you are (or at least who you want people to think you are) and stick to it. This is your brand. Why settle for a sloppy, undecided identity when you can appear slick, stylish and direct?
Remember to manscape. According to Marilyn Prosch, an associate professor at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, about half of all employers regularly check employee’s social media profiles.
Don’t wait for an embarrassing photo or status update to do a bit of digital maintenance. The tools to avoid social media shame already exist. You can set up Facebook to require your permission before any potentially humiliating or negative photos are linked to your account, and solving the status situation is simple: don’t post stupid things.
To be clear, I’m not necessarily advocating that you make your profile private. Personally, I keep mine open – I don’t have anything to hide and would rather not appear to. But it’s a personal decision and one for you to make for yourself.
Follow these tips and you should be all set to take on the new season.
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