Private is over: public is the new private

What is your online presence saying about you? Probably more than you realize. Public is the new private and as we see a new focus on personal branding, we are also entering the new age of too much public information.

There’s no such thing anymore as a dividing line between business and pleasure. If you’re using social media sites, you’ll have business contacts as friends. Fact. And we’re only at the start: as social media sites continue to grow in popularity, so this is a good time to take a look at your personal online profile and take stock of what’s out there.

Odds are that you’re providing some information here, some more there – giving away more personal information than you’d initially realize, as this can easily be aggregated by scraping information from a few key sites. Your Foursquare check-ins, that helpful Twitter functionality which adds your geo-location to every Tweet, plus the snaps you posted on Facebook from the last road trip: they all add up to an ever-more-detailed electronic profile. It’s not hard to comb through a user’s social media profiles to quickly build up a detailed picture of not only that person, but also their closest friends and relatives.

Once you’ve got the basics, it becomes easier to fill in the gaps – adding another layer of information using only the data that you’ve provided voluntarily – such as your musical tastes, thanks to Spotify, and Pandora; travel information from sites such as TripIt, plus personal blogs and comments on forums. Are you a fan of Farmville? Do you use Latitude with Google Maps? Perhaps you try to keep your contacts up-to-date with the much-maligned Plaxo? They’re all parts of the jigsaw.

Some people are more comfortable than others with a wealth of their personal information being available online. But even if you’re cool with all this information being accessible, it’s worth doing a quick social media audit. Yep, this is the legitimate reason you’ve been looking for to justify “Googling yourself”. Even with common names like mine, throwing in a few keywords quickly helps set me apart from the England cricket player, the actor, and the guitarist in The Verve.

Shared information should be consistent, as this is your personal corporate identity. No matter where you’re posting information, it’s only a few clicks from a Facebook fun page to a LinkedIn profile.

A look at the numbers should be enough to convince even the most-skeptical naysayer that social media is most definitely mainstream and outstripping traditional news outlets in terms of unique visitors. Facebook is about to top 500 million users and, according to Nielsen, Facebook brought in more than 125 million visitors in the US alone during May 2010. This is a significantly higher audience than the online news leader, CNN, which according to comScore reports, pulled in around 75 million unique visitors during the same period.

And remember … to misquote a well-known saying, everything you post may be taken down and used in evidence against you!

Let’s be careful out there.

Simon Jones –

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