Social media has changed how we interact with people online. For those who frequently use social media, or have had an active account for a long period of time, you’ve likely accumulated a lot of content posted over the years. If you’ve posted something from a long time ago that still exists, that post could still be seen by the public.
Of course, you were not the person you were years ago when you may have posted something that could harm your reputation. As time goes, you grow and mature as a person, and your circumstances can change. We never think that the photo or video posted online years ago would factor into an important life decision like applying for a job or a collegiate program.
Why Clean Up Your Social Media Accounts
Many people clean up their social media accounts when applying for a job or collegiate program. When applications are sent and candidates are reviewed, hiring managers or admissions staff will do an online search for you, which includes any current social media accounts.
High School Students: for high school students that are looking to apply for college, admissions officials will look into a student’s social media accounts. What teenagers may find “funny”, college admissions staff will determine as a reason to reject that candidate. Parents of teenagers can help their teenagers by stressing the importance of avoiding any posts that hint at sexism, racism, or experimenting with alcohol, or drugs. A social media scrub can make a difference in getting accepted to your top choice and getting scholarships.
Masters & Doctorate Applicants: for aspiring masters or doctorate applicants, a social media scrub. Schools and programs may review your digital footprint in addition to our application when considering someone. It’s best not to leave it up to chance.
Job Hunters: when recruiters review a job application, they may look at your social media accounts. When you take a look at your social media profiles, try to look at it from a hiring manager’s point of view, and ask yourself “does this make me look hire-able?”. 70% of employers will look at a candidate’s social media profiles before making their decision. Be sure to delete anything that could possibly hold you back from getting the position you are seeking to advance your career.
Benefits of Doing a Social Media Scrub
There are many reasons to scrub your social media accounts. By performing an in-depth scrub of your social media accounts, you can achieve the following:
Project a professional image
Portray a more friendly persona online
Demonstrate great communication
Improve your personal brand online
Network with others online
Whether you’re a high school student applying for college, or a working professional applying for a new job, or a master’s program, a thorough scrub of social media accounts is highly encouraged. That way, when hiring managers and admissions review you as a candidate, your online reputation won’t spoil your chances of advancing your career or getting into a program that you worked so hard for.
Most Commonly Used Social Media Platforms
These days, there are a number of social media platforms that are frequently used. Here are the most popular platforms that are used today, and some tips on how to do a proper scrub:
In the world of Twitter, where memes and gifs are frequently tweeted out, content posted may not be portrayed in the most professional image. With Twitter’s privacy settings, public tweets can be accessed by anyone, whereas protected tweets are only visible to your followers. If you do decide to leave tweets public, you should consider going through your past tweets, retweets, and quoted tweets and removing certain posts.
This is the largest social media platform, with 2.8 billion monthly active Facebook users (end of 2020). Facebook has been around since 2004, and many users have had a Facebook account for at least a decade – which means the likelihood of having questionable content is may be higher than other platforms. With Facebook, you can delete both photos and posts relatively easily, once found. With that in mind, a full Facebook social media scrub may be a good idea to remove old content that could be deemed inappropriate, or in bad taste.
LinkedIn is deemed as the social media platform for professionals. Given its professional use, reputation on LinkedIn should be handled a bit differently. For those on the job hunt, creating a profile that will make you look like the most qualified candidate for a job. Consider hiring a photographer to get a high-resolution photo to use. You should also fill out your “experience” section and make it as detailed as possible. Finally, consider your endorsements and testimonials – this boosts your credibility.
Deleting images on Instagram is pretty straightforward, however, there is no way to delete images in bulk. If your Instagram account is public, any user can see your photos, accounts that you follow online, and even photos that you were tagged in by others. Consider making your Instagram profile private, or removing images.
11 Ways to Clean Up Social Media Accounts
The issue with social media is that the more that an account is used, the higher the likelihood that detrimental content could exist and be found by someone researching you. In these cases, a social media clean-up will be an intense, long process, but something that could ultimately save you from embarrassment or propel your career and your future.
1 Choose Whether to Make Accounts Private
Ultimately, the process starts with the decision of whether or not to keep your social media accounts public. Public social media profiles can be accessed by anyone, while private accounts mean that you have to be connected with someone online in order for them to see your profile. There are several reasons to keep social media accounts private. However, using social media correctly can actually help you stand out from other candidates when applying to school or a job. You may want to pick and choose which platforms or profiles to keep and which to remove. It’s important to note, it’s still highly encouraged to remove content even if your profile is private – just because the public can’t see your content, friends, family, and acquaintances that follow you can.
2 Deactivate Outdated Accounts
Do you have old social media accounts that you have stopped using? In these instances, it’s usually best to delete the accounts entirely if they aren’t being used. Why would you risk having a hiring manager or admissions official find something on that account if it’s not even used anymore? It’s simply not worth the risk to keep the profile live. You should consider deleting the profile prior to a big interview.
3 Know what needs to change
When you do a social media scrub, you’ll find opportunities to remove or update content. Having an idea of the type of content to address is the first step. Once you begin your process, you’ll know it when you see it. For anything that looks questionable, it’s better to err on the side of caution and remove the post.
4 Go Way Back Into Your History
When doing a social media scrub, you will want to review all posts. This means reviewing all posts from the launch of the social media account. Reviewing old posts is particularly important because, although you may not realize how different you once were. Be sure to check accounts on social media platforms that have been around longer, like Twitter and Facebook.
5 Remove Questionable Content
As you review past social media posts, you may find content that is considered questionable to keep. This would include content that may be looked at as inappropriate, offensive, or even illegal. It’s encouraged to take a conservative approach – so even if you think a post is the least bit questionable, it’s best to remove it from the internet.
6 Google Yourself
Google can pull in content from social media accounts. If you Google yourself, do your social media accounts come up first as a result? If you click on the Google images tab, are there any images that come up from a social media profile? These are considerations to keep in mind, particularly ahead of a job interview or college application.
7 Update Your Profile Picture
When it comes to cleaning up your social media accounts, it’s important not to forget your profile picture. A profile picture on social media is likely the first thing a recruiter or admissions person would see upon finding your profile. Make sure that the profile image creates a positive impression. If your current profile picture does not give a good representation to others, consider adding a more professional one. It’s not a bad idea to hire a photographer to develop headshots to use – it shows that you want to be taken seriously.
8 Add a Bio
Your new profile shouldn’t stop at upgrading your profile pictures – you should also consider crafting a short, but detailed bio as well. All social media platforms have an area that allows users to create a short bio. Writing a snappy, and creative bio is a great way to make a first impression and show who you are. If you already have a bio, consider updating or even re-doing your bio to make it more professional, genuine, and detailed.
9 Unfollow Negative Accounts
With many social media platforms, in particular Twitter and Instagram, accounts you follow may be shown in your public profile. Consider unfollowing accounts that can negatively impact your reputation, and even finding positive influencers and accounts to follow. By doing this, it further cements your social media profiles as being seen as professional.
10 Post New Content
For a job interview or college application, it’s a great idea to post on social media if it helps you look more professional and improves your candidacy. After doing a scrub of past social media posts, start updating your profile with posts on topics that will help your chances of getting that new job, or being accepted into the program of your choice. This shows your passion for your area of expertise, as well as thought leadership.
11 Build Credibility
The final step with your social media accounts is to use them as a way to add credibility to your name. As you continue to use your newly scrubbed profile, consider ways to build credibility through social media. One great way to do this is to build a network online. By connecting with others who are in your field, or have similar interests as you do, you can grow your network and your following online.
With the amount of activity and number of posts on social media these days, there will be content that you posted at one point that may be beneficial to remove. Be sure to take the time to do a proper social media clean-up well ahead of a job interview or college application. A post of bad judgment shouldn’t be the reason for getting denied a job or college acceptance.