In the third of five posts in our speaker series, Cornerstone Reputation’s founder Carolynn Crabtree prioritizes what platforms students should be using online in order to improve their digital footprint. Have you heard of About.me? Because that is one of the main platforms she recommends, and not many people are familiar with it. Read on to learn how About.me and your profile picture can be leveraged to enhance your online reputation.
Carolynn: We recommend that every student should know how to establish control over the information Google returns about them when they’re searched. This is a really intimidating thing to hear, I imagine, but basically, it’s really simple.
You just need to set up accounts with some of the things we’ve talked about – Facebook. LinkedIn is a fantastic example. Google pays a lot of attention to LinkedIn and gives a lot of credence, so again, that will be one of the first things that comes up when you’re searched.
A social media platform that a lot of students don’t know about is About.me. It’s another platform that Google pays a lot of attention to. One of the things we love about it for students is that no peers can comment on it. So it’s your content.
Really importantly, we discovered in our survey that admissions officers unfortunately will take this “guilty by association” approach to students’ social media. If your content is all buttoned-up but some of your peers’ comments on your content is a little sketchy, to use a teen word, unfortunately that will affect their impression of you. You let that comment stay up, you let that content stay up, so that can affect how an admissions officer would view you, even though your content is perfectly fine and great and positive and impactful.
About.me is a page that only you can manipulate, only you can comment on. No peers can comment on it. And it will show up as one of the top results when someone searches you online. So, that’s fantastic.
Twitter, obviously, is a great avenue. Just be really careful with regards to not just your content but what you’re retweeting. That, again, can be a “guilty by association” factor in this scenario.
Lastly, like I mentioned before, it’s really valuable to have your own personal website at your own personal domain. You can check out mine as an example, CarolynnCrabtree.com, just to showcase the kind of thing you could be creating that is the most valuable piece of real estate any student, any individual, can have online and that would be one of the first things, if not the first thing, that Google would return about you when someone searches your name online.
Obviously, we recommend that students pay attention to your privacy settings. You need to start thinking about that distinguished personal, social, and publicly-available content that you really want outsiders to find about you because it helps them understand who you are as a person and what you would bring to the table and what you would bring to this new college you’re hoping to get into.
Finally, what we recommend is you connect all of these new platforms that you’re on. Any new platform that you’re on will give you a place to add websites. Basically, what you’re doing is cross-pollinating. You’re adding all of your own personal sites to each other, creating this nest of content and telling Google “Hey, this is me. This is my content. Make sure this comes up first when someone searches me online.”
So, that’s the platform answer and the connectivity answer and what you can be doing to tell Google who you are.
I have a couple more pieces of advice for students that I think will be helpful – super easy but will put them in a good position as they’re cruising towards this phase of their life.
What we obviously tell everyone is when you are selecting a profile picture, it’s important for your profile picture to look like you. We did a test with admissions officers and coaches – an A and B test.
The A test was a profile picture that was just a student’s face. The B test, you could recognize the student and they were doing something that they said they were really passionate about in their college application. It didn’t even necessarily have to be the sport, but something else that they said they were passionate about.
Every single time, those admissions officers and those coaches said that the action photo or the “doing” photo was more impactful and it functioned as a bona fide. “Great. Here’s the student. They told me they loved to paint. Here’s this amazing photo of them painting.” All of a sudden, it brings that into the forefront, makes it a reality for those gatekeepers so that they understand it.
That’s a really simple example of how a student can be doing something that you know is going to be the first thing that an admissions officer will see when they pull up that social media page, that profile picture. You can take control over that, and you can take control over the message that you’re sending with that.
A couple more things. We definitely recommend that all students change their social media settings so that every post they make initially appears to him- or herself. Once they’ve done it, they’ve made that post, then you can have the option come up where you then choose “Will this go to my friends audience? Will this go to this other group that I’ve created? Or should this be public?”
It starts to help students understand “Great. I do have an audience. Wow, this audience could be massive. It could be extensive. Let me start thinking about who needs to see what and why.”
The whole notion of “guilty by association,” one thing that’s really great that you can do as a student is start limiting your social media settings so that you actually have to approve any comments made by peers before they would appear publicly on your profiles.
Again, this is so your character isn’t judged by comments peers have written on your sites but really by your own content, and making sure that those comments that peers are putting on your site are really positive and showcase that you work well with others and that you enjoy others and that you celebrate others and that you’re really a team player. The good roommate test: will you be a fantastic roommate when you come onto our college campus?
Lastly, our advice really is just be authentic. Admissions officers and coaches and future employers can tell when your online content seems forced or is really at odds with what you say you love to do in your application.
Most admissions officers don’t really care what your passions are; they just want to know that you’re really passionate about what you say you care about. So be authentic. Be yourself. Feel empowered and feel limitless.
You are the most powerful teens who have ever existed because you have this fantastic thing called the Internet that’s constantly evolving, constantly letting you show the world who you are. So, embrace it and use it as something that will help you in your future. Don’t be scared of it.
Edited by Jennifer Schwartz