Talking tech since 2003

In our modern world, our online identities and online presence truly shapes what the world sees of us and ultimately the perceptions people make of us.  Having said this, there are several components that help to compose a person’s online presence; their social networking pages, personal websites, blogs, the perception drawn from their email addresses, etc.  The managing of one’s online identity can aid them greatly in the sense that it makes one look a great deal more appealing in any situation; from social to professional.  By following a few simple guidelines, you can help to shape your online identity and give yourself a better overall image.

Social Networking

Social networking is easily the biggest part of your online identity.  Millions upon millions of people use social networking sites on a daily basis, and for many, social networks hold a lot of personal information.  As far as professionalism goes, social networks like MySpace and Facebook can house a great deal of images, status updates, etc that could indeed damage one’s professional appearance and reputation.  Because of this, it is wise to consider implementing some sort of privacy settings within the social networks that you use.  For example, Twitter users can choose to protect their tweets, only allowing authorized Twitter users to follow them.  With Facebook, users can take advantage of the network’s privacy settings, which allow the user to limit what specific content is available to specific people as opposed to simply locking people out all together.   Another thing you should consider is removing tags of yourself from Facebook posts and images that you deem to be unprofessional and harmful to your professional image.  It may also be wise of you to consider limiting the people who can write on your Facebook wall, as doing so could prevent unprofessional content from appearing on your profile.

Another option you may consider is using a social network that is tailored specifically for professionalism.  This being, LinkedIn is a great social network that allows one to keep up with their colleagues and friends’ professional updates.  The service also allows users to keep in touch, request letters of recommendation, and connect with other people in their industry.  This is important, because by using LinkedIn, you are able to keep up-to-date with the people around you, and ultimately make yourself a more informed professional.  One of the things I like about LinkedIn is the fact that it eliminates the need to add business contacts (bosses, colleagues, clients, etc) on more personal social networks such as Facebook.

All in all, combining social networks with professionalism is a tricky thing to do.  This being, you do not want to “friend” contacts that would be opposed to any of your posts.  But, at the same time, using social media can give you an edge, as it can make you more available and interactive with your professional contact.

Personal Blogs

Personal blogs, websites, and online portfolios truly help to give a person a much more professional look.  This being, having a personal site shows that one has the know-how to put a site together, as well as the dedication to maintain and update it.  Because of this, having a personal site gives you a cutting edge when someone is looking at your overall professionalism (such as potential employers).  Many shared web-hosts have web-based installers for content management systems and blogging platforms such as WordPress.  If your shared host does not offer this, or if you want something that’s simple to install on your own, you may look at a content management system such as gpEasy.  Or, you could always create something on your own to give you a much more professional image.

Email Addresses

Lastly, you have to consider your email address.  In professional situations, you definitely will not want to use an email address that would cause any form of controvercy or makes you appaear as a partier, etc.  For example, you would not want to use “sexi_guy_h0t_stuffs” as your email address on resumes or portfolios.  In professional situations, it is best to keep your email simple.  Consider using simply using some form of your first and last name, or a combination of the both.  To make things simpler on yourself, you may even consider simply setting up a “professional” email address and auto-forwarding the messages to your old email account.  However, if you choose to do this, you will have to be cautious of sending outgoing emails, as you may end up sending using the old unprofessional email address.  For more information about this, feel free to read my article on using Gmail as a unified email inbox.

Additionally, it is often seen as as unprofessional to use a free email service as your primary email account.  For example, many people see users who use AOL email accounts as not being very technology savvy.  One of the best ways to enhance your online image is to create a vanity email account.  This does require that you have or purchase a domain name, however this usually only costs about ten dollars per year.  Once you have a domain name, you may consider setting up Google Apps, or a similar service from a provider such as Windows Live.

If purchasing a domain and setting up email isn’t something that you want to do (it is inexpensive and should only take about a half hour of your time), then you may want to at least consider using an email provider such as Gmail that makes you look more savvy.

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