-- Searched for you using Google or another search engine
-- Reviewed your LinkedIn profile
-- Looked you up on Facebook
Or possibly all three. The frequency of these types of searches is going up, and the platforms being used for research are increasing. What are people looking for?
Credibility: People who search for you online in preparation for a meeting want to know what you bring to the table. A limp list of past job positions leaves more questions in their minds than answers. A robust profile tells searchers about your accomplishments, commendations and credentials.
Context: Whatever the nature of your meeting, the person looking you up online is researching your context. What background will make up your approach and have shaped your biases? It's easy to make certain types of assumptions about you based upon the types of companies for which you have worked, the places you have attended school, certifications you have received and so on.
Connection: Like all of us, the person searching you on social sites is hoping there might be some common ground of interests upon which to draw for initial rapport. They're curious about your group affiliations, hobbies, family and interests. It is a little voyeuristic, I think, but it is also the world in which we live.
Internet profiles and access to your information mean that your story is being told digitally. That lets people form opinions and reach conclusions prior to your meeting. Your first impression is made well before the first handshake, so you need to make certain it is the best one you can make.
Here are some true stories of the real world colliding with the digital world:
-- A picture of a job candidate playing "Beer Pong" sank one person's job application.
-- A sales rep was greeted with "How can you possibly support gun control?" in the first few minutes of an initial meeting with a prospect.
-- Another sales rep was met with, "I called two people I know from the last company you worked at and they said that they had never heard of you."
You probably have your own horror stories. These few examples were all the results of pre-meeting digital searches.
So what should you do?
1. Know your digital twin. Search yourself through a search engine, then in the world of Facebook and LinkedIn. Find out what is out there on you and make certain that it is accurate. If there is nothing, you need to create your own profiles. Having nothing in the digital world says something about you too.
2. Manage your digital twin. You need to be regularly updating and refining your digital profile.
3. Work on the digital twins of your team members. If you are a part of a sales or service team, your team's profiles are a reflection on your own, as well as your company's.
The separation between organizational brands and personal brands is becoming muddier as messages become easily created without the consideration of unintended consequences. Take control of your digital twin and tell your own story.