Popular social network sites Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Vine, YouTube, FourSquare, Pinterest and Tumblr make it easy to connect with friends and share the details of your life. This can be great, but the nature of these sites can also cause you to overshare. Though that post about how your boss is driving you crazy may seem innocent enough at the time, it can come back to bite you.

How your online reputation can cost you money

Being an online oversharer can not only jeopardize your safety and negatively affect your personal and professional lives, but can also cost you money. Here are three of the major ways how:

  • According to a September 2013 Huffington Post report, roughly 45 percent of employers use social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to screen potential employees and 18 percent of employers have denied an applicant a job opportunity because of information they found on social media. If your e-reputation keeps you from getting hired, you’re missing out on potential earnings and more lucrative career opportunities.
  • Your social media activity and Web presence can get you fired from your current job. In fact, 18 percent of employers say they have fired an employee for their online activity.
  • If you share personal details online, you can become a prime target for identify theft. If your identity is stolen, your bank accounts can be drained, fraudulent charges may be made on your credit cards, and your credit score can plummet.

To make sure you are only putting your best “digital foot” forward on the Web, you need to be proactive about your online reputation management. It’s a large undertaking, but the following tips are a good place to get started:

Google Web Search

First things first, you have to check out your own digital footprint on the Web by searching Google. If you want to be especially thorough, you can run these searches in Google as well as other popular search engines including Bing, Yahoo, Ask and AOL. Here’s a list of unique searches you should perform on Google:

  • Your Name (First, Middle, and Last): Search with quotation marks around your name (e.g., input the following in the search box: “Suzanne Sybil Samplename”).
  • Your Name (First, Middle Initial, and Last): Search with quotation marks around your name (“Suzanne S. Samplename”).
  • Your Name (First and Last): Search with quotation marks around your name (“Suzanne Samplename”).
  • Your Name (Nickname and Last): Search with quotation marks around your name (“Suzy Samplename”; also you can try searching for “Suzy Sybil Samplename” or “Suzy S. Samplename”).
  • Your Name and City: Search with quotation marks around your name and the name of your city (“Suzanne Samplename” and “Santa Fe”).

  • Your Name and State: Search with quotation marks around your name and the name of your state (“Suzanne Samplename” and “New Mexico”).
  • Your Name and Employer: Search with quotation marks around your name and the name of your employer (“Suzanne Samplename” and “Florida Power and Light”).
  • Your Name and Your School/College Name: Search with quotation marks around the name of your school/college (“Suzanne Samplename” and “Duke University”).
  • Your Email Address: Search each of your current and former email addresses in separate searches (“SuzanneSamplename@gmail.com”).
  • Your Email Address Handle: Search each of your current and former email address handles in separate searches (if your email address is SuzanneSamplename@gmail.com, your email address handle is SuzanneSamplename).

Google Image Search

You can use a Google image search to find out if another person or company has “stolen” your pictures and images. For example, a close friend of mine has a public weight-loss blog where she posts progress pictures of her 50-pound weight loss. When she searched the photographs of herself that she included on her blog on Google Image’s Search by Image tool, she was surprised to find that three different diet pill/weight loss program companies were using her before-and-after photos to advertise their product. I’ve also known people who did a Google image search of their photo and found that other people were impersonating them on fake Facebook or LinkedIn profiles or using their pictures on fake dating website profiles. Here is how you can search by image on Google Images:

  • To begin, go to http://www.google.com/imghp.
  • Click the camera image in the search bar.
  • Upload the image/picture you want Google Images to search the Web for.
  • Click on the blue “Search by Image” button.
  • Review your image search results. Google will show you a list of all the places on the Web the image was used.

Google Alerts

You can quickly and easily set up Google Alerts for your name, business name, email address or any other search query. Google will alert you every time that your search query appears on the Web. You can choose which forms of media (i.e. blogs or news articles) and how frequently you receive notifications. To set up Google Alerts, click here, and learn more about using Google Alerts to save money here.

Monitor Twitter mentions with TweetBeep

TweetBeep is like Google Alerts, but for Twitter. If you sign up for the free version of TweetBeep, you can set up the service to send you regular updates every time your name or whatever else you choose to search for is mentioned on Twitter. For example you can set up TweetBeep to search Tweets for your name or Twitter username (e.g., @SuzanneSampleName) or even Tweets linking to your blog or website.

How to remove unwanted content and search results

Have you found content or images (like an embarrassing picture) that you don’t want online? If the photo is on a site controlled by another person, try these steps to get it removed:

  • First, you can try to contact the site’s webmaster/administrator/site author and politely ask them to remove the picture.
  • If you want to report content that you believe warrants removal from Google’s services based on applicable laws, use this tool to send a legal removal request.
  • Even if unwanted content has been removed from the Web, it still may appear in Google’s search results if Google hasn’t “crawled” the page yet or updated its search results. If you are waiting for Google to update its search results to reflect the removed content, you can use this tool to request Google not to show the outdated content from the page.

Avoid using your real name or other identifiers

On your Facebook profile or other social network account, you may want to consider not using your full name. Instead use initials, a partial name, a nickname or an alias. For example, instead of using “Suzanne Samplename”, you could use “S.S.,” “Suzi S.,” “Zanny S.,” or “Namaste Gal.” Also, many people use their name, email address or email address handle as their usernames for discussion forums or comments sections on websites. If you don’t want a potential employer or someone searching the Internet for you to see that juvenile comment war you got into on some blog site, don’t use names that give away your identity like “SuzanneSamplename” or “SSamplename”. Use an alias instead and use different usernames for all the different sites you post on.

Is Your Online Reputation Costing You Money?