By Chris Abraham
Are you a social media hoarder? Is it time for a bit of a social media spring cleaning? What defines you? Your current creativity, expertise, and work? Or, all the stuff you’ve posted since the beginning of your social media life, including your blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Friendster, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, et al. Professional organizers recommend donating, recycling, or throwing out everything you own that you have not used in the last six months. Online, however, we’ve been trailing all of our keepsakes behind us like streamers. This spring, do a massive curation of your online properties. Are there hobbies and professions that are safely in your past that you can prune from your online reputation? Are there hobbies and experiences that don’t define you any more?
This spring is a brilliant time to get rid of anything and everything that bears no relevance to your current professional life outside of those keepsakes that really accentuate who you are and what you have to offer. You don’t want to cut out the fact that you’re a Forbes Social Media Power Influencer, for example.
I have been talking about this a lot lately. In “Dominate your personal brand on Google Images”, I offered ways to curate and better control your brand online through Google images. In “Are you a social media polymath?”, I suggest that it’s time to really share who you are and what you know with the people around you online. Don’t let the past define you, even online. Even in a post Snowden, NSA collected world, you still have a lot of control of how you’re perceived and what people know about you. You can accentuate the stuff you love to do and do best, and suppress the things you used to do but aren’t interested in doing any more.
You are not a victim here, you are your biggest advocate and generally the only person who has so much riding on what people know about you online. The same Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies are routinely used to both promote your vision of reality onto Google search as well as d-emphasizing the icky stuff. The magic unicorn of online reputation management (ORM) is getting access to the content that the client considers painful, untrue, disparaging, or slandering, and removing it. When it comes to your articles, your posts, your social network profiles, and all of your past content, you’re empowered to do just that: edit, delete, remove, revise, update, relink, delink, and improve. In most cases, deletion is the best bet.
How have I had this come to Jesus moment? Well, not intentionally. I am the victim of a server crash heard around the world.
I, myself, had been carrying around 15 years of online publishing in the form of my personal blog, but not anymore. Poof! Both the live site and the backup drive failed catastrophically in some server farm somewhere, the equivalent of having social services clear out a hoarder’s apartment overnight while the hoarder was asleep, going from ceiling high issues of Psychology Today and The New Yorker to empty, empty, empty. Gone are all the metaphorical piles of newspapers, all the crazy man cats, the stacks of cathode ray televisions and vacuum tube radios that have probably never worked and will never work. Here, the gleaming shock of sunbeams, floor, windows, and bare walls. What to do now?
I met my friend Amy Wilkinson for lunch the other week at the Dupont Sweetgreen and we talked just about everything under the sun, as we do. She caught me up on the book she’s writing on high impact entrepreneurs, and I told her about the catastrophic server failure. Amy smiled at me, threw up her arms, and said, “how liberating!”
“Chris,” she said, “We’ve been friends for a decade and I do follow you on social media: you’re all over the place. Now you can simplify. This is a gift. Intentionally throwing away the bric-à-brac of your entire life is impossible for most people. Now you are free. Now you can choose who you are and what you do, instead of letting thousands of blog posts written over one and a half decades define you.”
Amy leaned forward, looked at me seriously over her salad, and finished with, “entrepreneurs fail all the time. The successful ones put their failures behind them, and the best ones put their past successes behind them, too.”
Thank you, Amy.
Today is the first day of the rest of my online reputation — starting right after I finish this post.
What will my life and my career look like from now moving forward as reflected by Google’s funhouse mirror?? All I know is that it’ll be both a lot of hard work but it’ll also be the equivalent of my own personal and professional portfolio. I’ll let you know how it goes but I would also like you to let me know if you’re going to do some extreme spring cleaning this year; and, if you do, how did it turn out?