I don’t know how people keep getting caught up with their online social presence like they do, what with the dozens of stories that seem to come out each week about someone who’s been burned by their social networking activities. I’d like to say that I’m lucky that it hasn’t happened to me but it’s got nothing to do with luck and everything with the company I keep. All of my friends are aware of the impact putting up compromising pictures on the Internet and there’s an unspoken agreement that nothing of the sort will make it up there. However for those people out there who have “friends” who delight in posting embarrassing pictures of them online and haven’t learnt the privacy settings of Facebook there’s a lot you can do to make sure that they don’t come back to bite you in the ass.
The idea I’m talking about is called honey potting.
The nomenclature comes from the IT Security/hacker crowd and is used in reference to a system that’s set up to be attractive to people with less than righteous intents. In essence you’d set up this system so that a would be hacker would target it first and you’d set up alarms in order to alert you to when someone’s going in there. The core of the idea is that not only do you know that the intruders are coming you also control exactly what they see in that honey pot environment. Extrapolating that idea to the world of social networks and the potential for embarrassment contained therein the idea would then be to craft an online persona that’s more easily found via a cursory Google search than those compromising Facebook pictures are.
For me this was done accidentally when I created this blog. My name is tagged on every post and after 3 years of blogging any search for my name usually ends up with this blog at the top or something equally safe such as my LinkedIn profile or Twitter page. Facebook is much further down and contains barely any details on me at all (apart from a few pictures) meaning that the impression that a potential future employer will get will be mostly shaped by what they see on those other sites. Sure it’s not exactly a quick fix that people would be looking for but it works.
This strategy won’t help you too much if your employer asks for your Facebook login upon applying for a job though. Should they do that however I’d advise you to turn tail and run as far away from them as you can since a company that requires that level of invasion will more than likely screw you in more ways than you can imagine. I have no sympathy for people who willingly put compromising information on a public forum but an employer has no right to ask for that level of access.
Of course this doesn’t excuse the questionably ethical process of tracking down all the information on a potential candidate. Whilst the ultimate solution is abstaining completely (although that can lead to the undesirable situation of the Internet making your persona for you in the mind of the searcher) most won’t choose to do that. Hell even if you can manage your friends it’s still a good idea to craft an online persona that looks the way you want it to be, rather than one that constructs itself.
I’ve been a keen user of social tools for a while now, over 4 years if memory serves me, and if I’m honest I’d have to say that whilst they’ve been extremely useful for my personal life they’ve really done nothing for me professionally. Sure Facebook and Twitter helped get this blog out of the doldrums of it seeing an average 1 page view a day (rocketing it to a whopping 10 per day, woo!) but apart from a single piece of software to review I haven’t really furthered my career or future prospects for wealth through using these channels. I could put that down to a major lack of trying however since my career has done pretty well without me having to rely on my social network.
I guess I’m just lucky that I’m in an industry that’s mostly meritocratic.
However recently I’ve started to get noticed by people who’ve found me through my social networking exploits, mostly through LinkedIn. Now the profile I have up there is pretty rudimentary with the only updates I’ve done to it over the past few years being to update my current job location and put a profile picture on there. Still the past 2 months has had me receive multiple phone calls, connection requests and emails all originating from LinkedIn. All of them are recruiters either eager to put me in a position they have or to build their social networks so they have a bigger candidate database, neither of which I’m particularly interested in at this current time.
You see whilst my profile might be public for everyone to see I’m not one of those people who makes connections on there for connections sake. It’s like any other social network to me, if I friend you on Facebook I consider you a friend, if I follow you on Twitter it means I’m interested in what you have to say. A connection on LinkedIn means I’ve worked with you in some capacity in the past or I see potential value in maintaining a business style relationship with you. An unsolicited request from a recruiter matches none of these rules and only serves to dilute the network of people that I’ve curated and only creates value for the recruiter. Sure its flattering that they consider me a valuable enough person on face value to want to connect with me but they’ve also done that with hundreds of other people so it means a lot less than they think it does.
For the most part though the requests are pretty harmless. I’ll get a single email asking to join my network and simply ignore it since I have no idea who they are and since I’m not currently in the market for a new job have no interest in establishing a relationship with them. However there was one persistent bugger who not only sent me multiple connection requests but also decided to email me several times and drudged up my phone number from an old resume he’d pilfered from a previous employer. I thought he would’ve got the hint after me not responding to him for 2 weeks but I guess I underestimated just how desperate some of these people can get.
You know how most of the recruiters I talk to got past the initial barrier? They offered to come see me in person and have a chat about what my needs might be. If you’re not willing to get past the barrier of doing a simple half hour meeting with me then I’m not going to be interested in giving you the recruiting bonuses and recurring commissions that one of my contracts will get you. Sure it’s a small thing but it shows me that you’re not just interested in fleshing out your candidate database and, more importantly, it gives me a chance to see if you’ll provide more value than just pimping me out to job agencies. Market knowledge is as important to me as is your ability to find jobs when I need them.
Could this all be solved by simply taking my LinkedIn profile Down? Sure, but since I’m a massive control freak I’d like the ability to have control over the presence I have on the web and with many people now googling potential employees that presence counts for a lot. I may have to deal with the odd obnoxious recruiter and may never realize any real value from it but I feel it’s still far better to have it than not. Well at least until this blog hits the number 1 spot in google for David Klemke, which it can’t be far off doing now.