How Social Media Privacy Settings Could Affect Your Future

Whether you're age 14 or 43, think twice before you post something online. Once it's published, it's there forever -- whether or not you delete it.
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Could Facebook's new privacy policy affect your child's -- and your own -- future prospects?

In an effort to win back its teenage audience, Facebook made a major change last week to its privacy policy. Teenagers have been rapidly abandoning the social network in favor of competitors such as Instagram and Snapchat.

Now, 13- to 17-year-old Facebook users have the ability to post their comments and photos publicly. Prior to this change, teenagers were restricted to sharing their posts with friends and friends-of-friends in an effort to protect this young generation from predators.

While I can't predict how these new privacy settings will affect Facebook's business, I am certain the change could negatively impact this generation's personal brand and with it, their future college and job prospects.

As Kelly Clay put it in her article for Forbes, the former privacy policy was "designed to protect teenagers not only from strangers, but also themselves." As any social media strategist will tell you, it takes only a few strokes of a keyboard -- or mobile device -- to do some serious damage to one's brand.

Consider this:

Kaplan Test Prep's college admissions survey found that colleges are increasingly using social media such as Facebook (87 percent) and Twitter (76 percent) to recruit new students. Additionally, of those admissions officers who Google applicants or visit their Facebook pages, 35 percent discovered something about an applicant that negatively impacted their application -- a 218 percent increase over the previous year.

Jobvite's 2013
found that recruiters are placing increasing importance on candidates' social profiles. In fact:
  • 93 percent of recruiters admit to reviewing a candidate's online presence as part of the screening process.
  • 42 percent of those surveyed have reconsidered candidates based on their social media presence, which resulted in both positive and negative re-assessments.
  • Recruiters reacted most negatively to references to doing illegal drugs (83 percent), posts/tweets of a sexual nature (71 percent), profanity in posts/tweets (65 percent), and spelling/grammatical errors (61 percent).
  • On the flip side, recruiters reacted very favorably to posts/tweets about volunteering and donations to charity (65 percent).

The lesson here? Whether you're age 14 or 43, think twice before you post something online. Once it's published, it's there forever -- whether or not you delete it. Adjust your privacy settings and consider changing the account name to something other than your first and last name so no one outside your circle of friends and family will be able to view your activity and posts. I often suggest changing your account name to your first and middle name. It's never too late -- or too early -- to protect your personal online brand.

Click here for more tips on protecting your online brand.

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