How to manage your social reputation (part one)

Services like Reppler let you gauge what Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles really say about you -- and fix them before it's too late.

These days, if you want people to believe you, you need a number. Credit scores indicate our financial health. Cholesterol scores suggest the odds of being felled by a heart attack. Now social media scores may help determine our hirability and/or desirability.

At least two services -- Reppler and TrueRep, an offshoot of the data broker giant Intelius – now assess your social media footprint and assign you a score. (Look for more on TrueRep in a future installment of TY4NS.)

I first wrote about Reppler last April. Back then it just offered a 30,000-foot view of your Facebook account, flagging status updates and wall posts that could get you in hot water later – sometimes to humorous effect. For example, Reppler mistook a status update mentioning “Texas tea” – ie, oil – as a reference to marijuana, and a wall post talking about US military bases for a discussion of freebasing.

Now Reppler offers the same kind of top-down view for Twitter, LinkedIn, Picasa, Flickr, and YouTube, then boils all of these down into a Social Image Score.

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The point of the score: To help you gauge how your profile looks to recruiters, HR folks, and other non-friends in a position to offer you an exciting job in the career of your choice. 

Why does that matter? Because Reppler also conducted a survey of 300 hiring managers at US companies. More than 90 percent of them say they check applicants’ social media profiles; roughly half do it as a routine part of the screening process. And more of them check Facebook (76 percent) and Twitter (56 percent) than LinkedIn (48 percent). So if you think you can keep the boring stuff on LinkedIn and be your normal party animal self everywhere else, think again.

I asked Reppler CEO Vlad Gorelick what it would take to earn a perfect score. It helps to have a large network of friends, he says, as well as sharing more information, not less -- for example, posting your work and education history on Facebook as well as LinkedIn, so HR folks can check to see they match.

Reppler looks at the overall tone of your updates -- are you sunny and upbeat, or do you complain bitterly about every slight? – and then uses “sentiment analysis” to gauge whether your posts are positive, negative, or neutral, says Gorelick. It flags potentially “inappropriate” posts – strong or derogatory language, references to drugs or alcohol, and “adult content” – so you can decide if you want to delete them before the Big Interview.

But it also gauges what your friends are saying on your profile. In other words, you don’t just have to worry about what you share on Facebook/Twitter etc, you also need to look at what your posse is sharing.

“It would be very hard for an employer to say they won’t hire you because you’re connected to, say, ‘Bob Smith’,” Gorelick says. “But if Bob Smith posts ‘Hey, I had a great time getting wasted with you last night’ on your wall, that might be a problem.”

You can of course hide or delete obnoxious wall posts, one by one, but they will still be visible on your friends' walls if anyone bothers to look. So you may need to have a serious talk with your overly sharing compadres.

As the man says, you better check yo’ self before you wreck yo’ self.

And maybe think about getting better friends.

Got a question about social media? TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan may have the answer (and if not, he’ll make something up). Visit his snarky, occasionally NSFW blog eSarcasm or follow him on Twitter: @tynan_on_tech. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-to’s, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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