Avoiding Mistaken Identity When Colleges and Employers Search Social Media

Relying only on your name for online identification can lead to disastrous results

Relying only on your name for online identification can lead to disastrous results

Your student possesses solid grades and test scores as well as a healthy résumé of summer experiences and extracurricular activities yet still can’t seem to attract attention from any top tier school or even secure a relevant internship.

Whether it’s during the college admissions process or scholarship reviews or when applying to graduate schools, internships or for employment - colleges, coaches and employers are increasingly turning to social media to make virtual character assessments of their candidates.

As a parent, you have heard the stories of how social media can impact academic and career decisions but your student assures you the problem has nothing to do with their social media because all activities have been hidden from view.

Apart from whether your student’s social media has been properly vetted and optimized for these inspections, the threshold question is whether your student has taken any steps to reduce the risk of online mistaken identity. What is arguably worse than being dismissed for one’s own social media transgressions is missing out on opportunities because of the bad judgment of another person who just happens to share your student’s name.

Here are three simple steps your student can take to mitigate this risk:

Establish Google+ as a landing page. Google+ is a social platform that can serve as a valuable landing page for identity validation. After securing a proper Gmail address, your student should complete the Google+ “About” template and then personalize their Google+ URL. The “About” template provides a flexible format for the student to self-identify by telling their unique story and establishing links to those social media activities, blogs, portfolios and publications they choose to share. Not surprisingly, Google+ ranks very high in native Google Search so their Google+ page will likely be found using a simple name search and will confidently lead the interested viewer directly to your student’s true online information and activities.

Complete the Facebook “About” section. Due to its size and popularity among the student demographic, Facebook remains the first stop for many social media reviewers choosing to bypass Google. Knowing this, your student should leverage Facebook’s often ignored “About” section by posting distinctive personal information. At a minimum, they should identify their hometown, high school and/or college on Facebook. Like Google+, your student can also include a short form narrative bio and links to their other online activities and social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram.

Use one email address for all social media accounts. Email is one of the few remaining unique personal identifiers that can be shared publicly. Due to email’s unique nature, every social platform requires the user to submit a validated email address at registration and these email addresses are given high priority in search function algorithms. By using the same email address for all social media registrations and college/employment correspondence, chances are very good that searches using this email address will produce more accurate results. Along the lines of unique personal identifiers, if your student has a very common name, they should also be encouraged to include their middle name or middle initial as an additional identifier on all social media sites.

When college and graduate school admissions directors, scholarship review committees and employers search social media to learn more about your student, the goal is to impress them with what they see.

The simple first step is to make sure they are found and not be confused with anyone else.