baby building online reputation

When to Start Building An Online Reputation

Then & Now

Times have changed. And despite the fact that saying this makes me feel about 3 times my age, I grew up in a world where kids played with Legos or Beanie Babies and am now living in a world where 1-year-olds know how to unlock their parents iPhones and find their favorite game apps. The 1990s to 2000s was a serious turning point where kids went from getting bikes or scooters for Christmas to getting computers, consoles and video games.

My generation was the first to grow up with the internet and the first to be introduced to social media sites such as Myspace and Facebook. Today, kids lives are documented on these sites from the moment they’re born, and sometimes even before they’ve made it out of the womb.

So it’s not a surprise that this new generation is so eager to become a part of the online community at such an early age. Over 38% of children with Facebook accounts are under the minimum age of 13 and a reported 4% are as young as 6 years or less. Though these statistics are troubling for obvious reasons, they are also worrisome in a way many do not consider: children are becoming part of the online world at an age where they are unaware that they’re essentially building a reputation which will follow them for years to come – and they’re likely not equipped to do so.

The Risks of Starting Too Soon

Even at 13, the acceptable age to create an account in compliance with Facebook’s guidelines, most children are probably not considering how their online activities could impact them down the line. Each status or picture posted on their profiles paints a picture. Positive or negative, that picture can last for a long time and can end up being a first impression for a future university recruiter or employer.

For some, this can be disastrous. My 13-year-old sister told me a story of a girl from her middle school whose nude pictures were leaked on Facebook. Before the social media craze, that girl’s reputation might have only affected her up until her final year of high school. Today, however, rather than fading gradually like most high school scandals, that small childhood mistake may follow her well into her adult life.

How Your Social Media Profile Can Impact Your Future

Think a personal social media profile can’t affect your professional life? Thinks again. One survey showed that 75% of HR professionals said they were required by their employers to search for information about job candidates online. And 70% of companies have rejected a candidate because of something they found on a social media platform.

According to one survey, the top three things on a social media profile that will turn off a recruiter are

  1. Pictures or information about drugs or drinking
  2. Inappropriate photos
  3. Poor communication skills

The Opportunity

However, along with these risks, there is also opportunity. With the proper encouragement, teens can use social media as a weapon to gain leverage over their peers by building their online reputations early, essentially branding themselves on the online world by painting the best possible picture to a future employer. If a young adult can step out of college with a Facebook timeline that is clean of party photos with suspicious-looking red cups and revealing pictures and posts with poor spelling and grammar (where most words are abbreviated in text messaging lingo) and instead, showcase a profile that displays his or her early interest in current events, involvement in school clubs and organizations, or even just interests and hobbies, that profile will stand out among his or her peers in the best way.

With the variety of social media sites, teens even have to the opportunity to show many different angles of their personalities from giving a peek of their social lives on Facebook and Twitter, their hobbies and interests on Pinterest, their writing skills on Tumblr and even social networking and involvement on Google+. By being active and contributing to these online communities in a positive way, they can also make themselves more visible on the internet. In a way, it’s almost like using SEO to sell yourself.

A Little Example

86% of recruiters said that a good online reputation would increase the chances that they’d hire a candidate, so, picture this. A job recruiter searches a candidate’s name before calling he or she in for an interview, a regular practice among 90% of recruiters, and his or her social media profiles are the first to come up. On those social media profiles he or she has links to their blog, which may include papers they have written for school, personal reviews of movies or books or even opinions on current events in the news. Let’s say that when the recruiter searches his or her name under “images,” and the first picture to come up is not an image of the candidate slouched over a toilet after a fraternity initiation, but instead, it’s a picture of the candidate holding a trophy after your debate competition. All of these are ways to paint a picture of personality and work ethic that will make an future employer want to hire one particular person over anyone else. It’s all about self-marketing.

Our interns at drumBEAT Marketing, some still in high school, are taught to do just that with practices such as building their Google+ Authorship and showcasing professional-level writing, even at a young age.

So, What?

In the end, the most important thing to remember is that the moment your social media profile has been created, everything that happens on it can impact your future in a major way. By taking that knowledge and turning it into an opportunity, you can be ahead of the game long before anyone has even started playing.

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