You’ve always known to avoid discussions of religion and politics. Unless you’re with a group of close friends and family, or other likeminded individuals, bringing up those subjects is usually a good way to start an argument.
Thanks to Facebook’s new Graph Search feature, though, you might be inadvertently sharing your views on those polarizing topics — and much more — with strangers. While your support for a particular political party might not matter to your best friends, to someone who is trying to sully your reputation it could be just the information they need.
Graph Search: An Overview
Facebook touts Graph Search as a means for users to connect with others who have similar interests. For instance, you might search for others in your area who enjoyed a particular book, engage in a certain hobby or recently ate at a new restaurant. By clicking on a profile in the search results, you’ll be able to see any information that the person makes public. The problem? The search results aren’t limited to people who you’re already connected with, meaning that your profile could (and probably will) appear in a stranger’s search results.
For example, if John Smith from Columbus, Ohio, wants to find other people in his area who enjoy skiing, he would search for “people in my town who like to ski.” Facebook would then return a list of profiles of other people who live in Columbus and indicated that they enjoy skiing through their likes, their check-ins and other data collected by Facebook. If John sees someone that he’d like to know more about, he can click on his or her profile and see any information that person has made public — everything from photos and status updates to biographical information, such as where he/she works, birthdate, relationship status and even political and religious affiliations.
What Graph Search Means for You
It’s no secret that almost everyone uses Facebook to find out information on others — whether it’s a potential employee, a blind date, a neighbor or co-worker who has piqued your curiosity. Graph Search is only going to make it easier for others to locate you and find information that you might not want to share outside of your circle of Facebook friends.
On the plus side, using Graph Search does allow you to find information about yourself that you didn’t realize was out there. Performing a search of photos, for example, could return several snapshots that you might not want to be tagged in. Easily finding those photos and staying on top of what’s added with your name allows you to untag yourself from potentially harmful content — and helps protect your reputation.
Keeping Your Reputation Intact
Since privacy and public image are important to many Facebook users, the social media giant insists that users will continue to have control over what others can and cannot see about them. The trick, they say, is in the privacy settings.
Get to know the privacy controls within your Facebook account. Facebook’s default setting allows full access to profile information; at the minimum, you need to manually set controls to limit who can see your posts. However, there are other controls that you can — and should — use to limit the information that shows up in functions like Graph Search.
- Within the privacy settings, click on the link for “Timeline and Tagging,” and choose the option to review posts that you’re tagged in before they appear on your timeline. Keep in mind that even if you decline to allow the post to appear on your timeline, it will still appear elsewhere. However, you’ll see what’s being posted before it appears and have the option to remove the tag.
- From the same menu, you can see your timeline as the public sees it. Check the public view regularly to ensure that the page appears as you wish it to, and hide or remove any information that you do not want publicly available.
- Block your Facebook profile from appearing in Web searches. Unless you opt to block Web search results, your Facebook profile, photos and posts can appear in a general search via Google, Bing or other search engines.
- Carefully consider what you add to your profile before you click “post.” Everything you post to Facebook can now be used in search results and could associate you with people, places or opinions that aren’t advantageous to your reputation.
Facebook’s Graph Search has great potential in the realm of social marketing. It also has great potential for harming your reputation if you aren’t careful about the information you share. Take some time to review your social media profile — including your likes, check-ins and tagged posts — and remove anything that you do not want to be searchable. Your reputation depends on it.
About the Author: Colleen Cuthbert is a social media marketing consultant who has worked with individuals and organizations to develop, implement and manage their social media presence. Understanding the importance of vigilance and constant monitoring, she advises clients to use reputation management services like http://reputationadvocate.com to ensure that their online reputation remains positive.