Building a strong and professional image is a very hard thing to do. As online identity and reputation become more valuable, focus on profiles that get "maximum bang for the buck". If you have not done it yet take a moment and setup these four, which will help serve as a healthy foundation for your online presence and give you the benefit of showing up in mainstream search engine results.
There are many reasons you have to consider for maintaining a healthy online presence. You may simply want to have easy to find information, you may want to connect with industry peers, or you may simply want to have some reputation insurance in case Google finds some strange tidbit from your past.
If you are unsure of where to start, the following services will provide a fairly strong online presence.
Linkedin is the most established business network. With over 50 million members in over 200 countries around the world, Linkedin is the only business network that can currently claim there are executives from all Fortune 500 companies on it. Linkedin also has the most robust networking functionality, keeping many of the personal social networking features off the user interface.
BENEFIT – It is the largest. It has a straight-forward interface. It has many worthwhile services provided for free and doesn’t "break the bank" for a professional account with some extra options.
DISADVANTAGE – The downside of Linkedin is that they sell advertising on profiles types and keyword variations. This means that people viewing your online profile are also being exposed to ads from potential competitors.
The newest kid on the profile block. While originally launched back in 2007, Google recently started showing Google Profiles in search results and tying them into other services. Profiles have a HUGE benefit in that they appear in Google search results for your name.
BENEFIT – It shows up in search results. It allows you to add links to any other web presence you have. This profile also works for services using Google’s friendconnect service (greatly helpful for businesses and developers.) At this point in time, it is clean cut and completely void of any real distractions to people looking for your information.
Another benefit is that it works with all of Google’s other free services: ranging from Google Labs, Google Reader, and Google Adwords/Analytics. This makes it a very simple “home base” for anyone already using Google’s platform.
DISADVANTAGE - Google has a plan. They always do. You can expect to see advertising slapped around this and to see your profile information integrated into dozens of other services in the not too distant future.
Well, what else needs to be said about Facebook?? Originally a youthful college site, Facebook has grown into a full business portal. As a social portal, Facebook has now become huge with more than 350 million active users.
BENEFIT -Facebook clearly has the largest active network to find other professionals on. It has a great number of niche user groups that are searchable on brand, geography, and user interests. It also has a robust API (Application Programming Interface) for businesses that want to develop tools working with Facebook information, ranging from such services as Facebook Connect, to user applications allowing additional information to be relayed.
DISADVANTAGE – Facebook slaps you with advertising wherever and whenever it can. The overall profile page turns non web savvy users into a state of information overload, and the navigation of the site is often nestled within hidden paths that are not user friendly.
VisualCV - while Linkedin, Google, and Facebook all have huge budgets behind them and have established presence VisualCV has the most professional interface, a clean cut experience, and tons of useful options that include a variety of social media “share this” functions. VisualCV could easily be a destination page for professionals who do not (or cannot) have a website of their own.
BENEFIT - You can have private and public profiles that include nearly any type of information you can think of. This site is also great for professionals on the job hunt, as it features a Print to PDF feature that produces a clean version of what you put online.
DISADVANTAGE – Unlike the other three, VisualCV doesn’t have a substantial social network population attached to it.
And remember, you need to be smart about what you say and do online as Google and other engines have the ability to catalog and cache seemingly all online activity, yours too! So if you say or do something your Mom would not like then don’t put it online…;) Lastly, Google yourself every now and then and see how you can improve on those results.