social media how toIs there anything from your online past that you would not want people to see?

Do you want to start cleaning up your online identity?

Your digital footprint is everything that shows up when people search for you online.

From images to comments and blog posts, this collective first impression can make or break your online reputation.

In this article, I share 5 tips for making sure your online presence reflects well on your brand or business.

#1: Check Your Facebook Privacy Settings

If you use your personal Facebook profile to promote your business, things from your personal life can become public very quickly. To maintain your privacy, it’s important to have your Facebook account set to friends only.

You may think that your account is already on lockdown, but Facebook privacy settings change often. Follow these steps to ensure your profile is ready for potential clients to see.

Specify the audience for future posts

As the default, all Facebook posts are set to Public, so before delving into the past, make sure you privacy-proof your future.

In the privacy settings of your Facebook profile, you can edit the Who can see my stuff? section to choose who’ll see your posts. The choices are Public, Friends, Only Me or Custom.


These settings can help you avoid making privacy blunders in the future.

For extreme privacy, the best choice is Friends. If you’ve already accepted friend requests from both personal and business acquaintances, you can create a Custom list to filter who sees what and avoid any embarrassment.

Edit past actions with the activity log

The activity log lets you edit the privacy and visibility of any action that you’ve ever made with your Facebook account.


Here’s how your actions look in the activity log.

To open your activity log, click on Privacy Shortcuts, the Who can see my stuff? drop-down and then Activity Log.

As you review your actions, use the two drop-down options in each post to change its privacy and visibility settings.


Edit the privacy and visibility settings of any action in your activity log.

It’s a drawn-out process, but well worth the time to know unwanted information isn’t available on the Internet.

Change privacy settings of past posts

Facebook has also made it easier to change the privacy settings of your past posts without using activity log.

In Privacy Settings, choose Limit the Audience for Old Posts on Your Timeline to Now, and edit them all with one click of your mouse.


For a much quicker resolution of your privacy problems, this feature is key.

Take advantage of the tools Facebook has in place to help you present a professional identity.

#2: Search Yourself

Most of us don’t know everything that’s published about us online. In addition to the content we publish, friends and colleagues sometimes share about us, too. Are you sure everything out there is appropriate?

Using multiple search engines, search for your name and see what comes up. A picture can speak a thousand words, so make sure you search for text and pictures.

If you find something that could damage your reputation, take steps to have it removed.

This is an easy fix if you know the person who’s responsible for posting it. Ask them to take it down immediately.

However, if the content is on a site hosted by someone you don’t know, contact the site owner or administrator with a request to remove it.

Deleted material may still appear in search results for a short time, but will disappear as Google updates its search results.


The first thing potential clients will do when researching is Google you, so make sure you have nothing to hide.

Make a self-search part of your regular reputation management and it’s easy to stay on top of where and how you’re mentioned online.

#3: Revise Your Personal Blog

While you’re well-versed in presenting a professional appearance on your business blog, you need to remember that private blogs show up in search engine results, too.

If you have a personal blog you use to vent frustrations and make personal observations, go through your posts to edit them for language and delete anything that will hinder you professionally.


Make sure there’s nothing on your blog that could cast you in a bad light. Image source: iStockphoto

Your blog is a virtual shop window. Make sure your posts are put in front of potential clients for all the right reasons.

#4: Delete Abandoned Social Media Accounts

We all grow up, but that doesn’t mean clients need to see the awkwardness. If you still have a MySpace or Bebo account lingering around, it’s high time to delete it.

The high-angle MySpace selfies and teen-angsty blog posts were great for high school but won’t do much for your business if they’re found by the wrong people.


Don’t let old social media accounts embarrass you with clients.

Delete dormant profiles on neglected social media networks to show yourself as a professional.

#5: Think Before You Post

Finally, when you’re about to post an angry status or emotional tweet, make sure you’d be happy if a client saw your post and formed an opinion of you based on it.

Also remember that LinkedIn tends to come up first in a personal search engine query, so keep your LinkedIn profile strictly professional.


Take a minute to consider the content you’re posting before hitting Send. Image source: iStockphoto

Don’t publish offensive or incriminating posts. Share interesting information that paints you in an attractive light to potential clients and you’ll increase the chances of contact with them.


Clients, colleagues and employers will form an opinion of you from browsing the first page of Google search results. Use the tips in this article to manage your reputation and ensure that everything that could possibly be found about you online is respectable and professional.

What do you think? Do you agree with cleaning up your digital footprint or should we be more open with the information we share? What tips can you share? Let me know in the comments below!

Images from iStockPhoto.
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  • Thanks for providing 5 actionable tips for making my online presence reflect my brand. In a age where everything you do now ends up in your permanent record. These 5 tips helps any brand or organization manage their reputation as if they’re always on candid camera, because they are!

  • Lauren, thanks for these tips! There are times when we can’t avoid error or
    inappropriate posts in our social media feeds, no matter how hard we try
    to be careful. Think before posting, that’s the best way to go!

  • So true, John. Thanks for sharing. And this is also useful if you change directions at some point and want to give less visibility to earlier endeavors.

  • Glad you like Lauren’s tips, Patrick.

  • Good job, Nitish!

  • I think #5 sums everything up best. Thanks for sharing these tips Lauren.

  • @JohnLeeDumas:disqus, couldn’t agree more. Hopefully these tips will help everyone be more aware of what they are sharing.

  • I’m not sure, from an SEO perspective, you should ever delete an account. Sure, go make everything friends only or private… but if you have an ideal username i.e. etc… I would never suggest deleting it!!

  • Great relevant topic, Lauren! For the longest time, I didn’t realize my Facebook post settings were set to public. I couldn’t believe I had no idea! Checking the privacy of social posts is definitely becoming increasingly important. Another tip I recently learned was the ability to set photo albums to ‘Only Me.’ This allows you to forbid friends or the public from seeing old, inappropriate photos, but still lets you have them there for safekeeping.

  • Thanks for sharing these tips Lauren. Your online reputation is very important and it could easily build the trust of other people. As mentioned above,think twice before you post anything because one wrong move can ruin your identity.

  • Thank you for the tips! Though I’m aware of most points mentioned here and do practice them myself, I wasn’t aware that Facebook allows users to exercise privacy controls over past comments and posts. I fully agree with #5 here – at the end of the day, you are writing on a public wall. It is always best to keep one’s emotions to oneself. Social media is not a place where you vent out the stress one day and regret it later. For people looking for channels to vent out stress, I suggest they try writing a journal. Yes, the physical activity of writing will calm us down in a better way than we think.

  • Thank you @CindyKing:disqus !!

  • Excellent tips to look up about personal branding. Thank you for sharing your invaluable thoughts here. May be I have some profiles which I need to delete immediately after reading this post. Merry Christmas.

  • Kerwyn Hodge

    From an SEO perspective, there’s merit in what you say, Blair. Certainly, a great username is something you don’t want to lose! Yet sometimes a person had an account on a network that isn’t that useful to their present brand. Worse still if that account was on a network or website that could potentially ruin a reputation. And let’s not forget spoofed accounts that may appear (which will likely take a bit more work to remove, but is well worth it). So there may still be value in removing accounts, even given the importance of SEO optimization.

  • Kerwyn Hodge

    So true, Cindy! We weren’t always who we are now, and sometimes that past person isn’t someone we like. While there is value in using the past to teach object lessons, it’s better if we can do it on our terms rather than have someone we don’t know (and who potentially has questionable motives) dig up something that no longer represents who we are and put THEIR spin on things!

  • Kerwyn Hodge

    That’s good advice for life in general. It’s especially good advice for our digital age when everything we post, public or private, has an impact! Just ask the now infamous Justine Sacco and I’m sure she’ll agree…

  • Abhijeet Sen

    thanks lauren for the 5 point list its really helpful.

  • Great example @kerwynhodge:disqus. #5 is definitely VERY relevant in that situation.

  • Thanks for the tips. They’re a good reminder at this time of year to take stock of your presence on social. That said, I’d personally put #5 up at #3, which would help with the other 2.

    And, to someone else’s point re: deleting accounts because of the SEO impact. By and large, the average user isn’t so concerned with their SEO, so I really wouldn’t discourage them from deleting accounts. Now, if you’re actively involved in social and/or find it necessary to have that type of SEO, then maybe keeping it– even if it’s locked down– isn’t such a terrible thing.

  • Good stuff to save our self from embarrassment, I think most of the people are unaware of these options… Thanks for sharing.

  • Great post, Lauren!

    I think a lot of people often forget about their abandoned MySpace page (thankfully I didn’t). It’s definitely a wise idea to make sure something you wrote as an angsty teen doesn’t reflect your cool demeanor of maturity currently.

    Definitely something to think about. Thanks for sharing!

    As for those who find something libelous or defamatory of themselves online and can’t get it taken down, offers a De-Indexing service that could wipe if off the search results for good.

    All you have to do is prove it is in fact false information. Just some food for thought! 🙂

  • Leise Falyon

    Thanks for the tips and the reminder about googling ourselves from time to time. I have had Facebook RE-SET my settings on me twice and I was oblivious that everything went public. I finally closed my personal Facebook account. I just don’t trust them anymore!

  • Great article, Lauren. Never underestimate the power of online presence.

  • Audrey

    Great tips, especially doing regular searches on my own name on Google. Thank you!

  • Thanks for your feedback Patrick – glad you enjoyed it!

  • Thanks for the feedback Nitish 🙂

  • Exactly John. It’s vital to be careful when posting information and content online.

  • Thanks Christian – glad you enjoyed it!

  • Glad you enjoyed the blog, Sarah. That’s a great tip for the photos too 🙂

  • Thanks for the feedback Barbara! 🙂

  • Glad you enjoyed it, Manu!

  • You’re welcome NavNeet!

  • No problem Abhijeet – glad you found it useful!

  • Thanks for the feedback!

  • You’re welcome Steve!

  • Great tips James – thanks for sharing!

  • Me neither, Leise!

  • Thanks for the feedback.

  • You’re welcome Audrey!

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