One of the first things people do now to find out about other people is "Google" them. It's cheaper, easier, and more anonymous than running a background check, and tells a potential employer, client (or date) more about your character and lifestyle than a background check (which only shows what you've might have been caught doing that may have been illegal). After all, just because someone doesn't have a criminal record doesn't mean they're trustworthy - right?
In the course of my work, I occasionally need to research to find out who people are, and what they're about, so I'm going to share with you some of the first places that someone who wants to know more about you will look. Scared yet? ;-) Read on if you dare, and follow these steps to find out what other people can easily find out about you on the web.
Google: Search for your name on Google, of course, but not just your name. Unless you have a really unusual name, there are probably several people who share the same name, so type your name and the name of any previous employers or anything else you may be known for (e.g. "Jennifer Pointer social media"). Be sure to click through all of the links on the first three pages, to see what is out there, and take down anything you can that is embarrassingly out-dated or inappropriate - if you can.
Facebook: Most people under age 50 have Facebook accounts, now and this is another common place to search for information about people. For this it helps to have an alternate Facebook account or someone you know in real life with a Facebook account that has not friended you on the site. Under that other account (not your own or one of your Facebook friends), search for your name on Facebook. This will give you a better idea of what a random stranger is able to see about you. You might want to take this opportunity to tighten down your privacy settings.
123People: This is a fantastic place to find out what is known about a person from a variety of common social networks, search engines, and online directories, including e-mail addresses, pictures, videos, and even a tag cloud. Of course, the database will pull this information for anyone with that name, and any photos that people have posted, so some of the information might not be relevant. This site, however, does have an uncanny ability to dredge up old stuff that you've forgotten about, giving you an opportunity, hopefully, to clean up some loose ends on your digital profile.
YouTube: This is the biggest and most well-known video site, if there are any videos on the site tagged with your name, you'll really want to see them before a potential employer or client does.
Jennifer Pointer (e-mail) is in Tulsa, OK. She promotes a simple, a low-tech approach to effective online profile management, search engine optimization and social networking.