Cleaning Up Your Social Media

Summary: Your personal brand can make or break professional opportunities. This guide shows you what’s holding you back on social, and how to make your social media presence work for you.

You’re Getting Screened Online Right Now

Let’s face it, online screenings are just a part of daily life. Whether you’re applying for a job, looking for a promotion, or meeting someone new - you will undergo a background check. And how you look online has the power to create or block opportunities. According to CareerBuilder, 70% of employers screen candidates on social media, and 54% of them have decided not to hire a candidate based on their social media profiles. That’s why it’s essential to take control of how you look online.

The people searching for you online are searching for a combination of red flags (signs that you could be a liability) and positive reinforcing factors (evidence that you are an asset).

As you start to shape and develop your personal brand, keep that in mind. Reduce the red flags while you build positive reinforcing factors.

How red flags can hurt you during important life stages


People screen for red flags just by googling your name and skimming the results. Red flags act as shortcuts that help them quickly decide not to work or associate with you.

We’ve made it our mission to identify red flags for our users so they can mitigate any damage.

If you’re applying to school:


While it’s true that not every admissions officer is going to perform a deep dive on prospective students’ social media profiles, a growing number are. In researching academic candidates during the admissions process, college admissions officers are turning to social media for help. According to Kaplan’s most recent study, 42% percent of admissions officers who check student social media accounts have discovered information that negatively affected an applicant’s prospects.

According to Kaplan Test Prep’s 2017 survey, one admissions officer remarked, “We found a student’s Twitter account with some really questionable language. It wasn’t quite racist, but it showed a cluelessness that you’d expect of a privileged student who hadn’t seen much of the world. It really ran counter to the rest of her application.”

Time Magazine columnist Kaitlin Mulhere sums it up best when she said, “Don’t put anything on social media that you wouldn’t submit as part of your college application.” Chances are, it’ll be found.

If you’re applying for a job (or have a job) :


When it comes to your career, a number of factors go into landing your next job. From your talent, demonstrated successes and experiences to who you know, the job search is a whole process.

While your qualifications are important, so is the way that you present yourself. According to CareerBuilder’s newest study, 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates and 54% of employers have found content on social media that caused them not to hire a candidate. And even if you have a job, 50% of employers check current employees' social media profiles. This has resulted in over a third of employees reprimanding or firing an employee for inappropriate content

Based on several studies from companies like CareerBuilder, Kaplan and a hand full of others, we designed software that flags the social posts and images that are likely to cause the most harm to your online reputation.

Whether you’re applying to school, applying to jobs, or sitting comfortably in retirement, the most destructive red flags typically fall into the following categories:

  • Derogatory language: While this may seem obvious, time and time again we see people making headlines due to inflammatory remarks that they’ve made about race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and more. Employers identify comments of intolerance as a very clear indication that this potential candidate or current employee is a serious liability. Employers view people who make derogatory statements on their social media as a disruption to their company’s culture internally and a potential PR nightmare externally. Just think of Justine Sacco - an executive who was fired for racist and insensitive tweets which she claimed were satirical. And don’t forget, images that reflect these kinds of attitudes will easily get you kicked out of school.

  • Unprofessional work or school behavior: Social media that proves you’re skipping or showing up late for work or school without a legitimate excuse is like telling the world (and your boss) that you are unprofessional, unreliable and dishonest. Complaining about coworkers, bosses or past employers is also a bad idea. According to a Cross-Tab study, 40% of HR professionals rejected candidates based on Comments criticizing previous employers, co-workers, or client. Any behavior that isn’t acceptable in the workplace shouldn’t be featured on any of your social media profiles. So just remember, if you skip work with a “cold” to go to a bar, don’t post the evidence on Instagram.

  • Violence or bullying: This is a huge red flag for anyone screening you online. Whether you’re constantly trolling people or you only seem to share photos of you and your gun, violence or bullying behavior is a big red flag for employers who want to create a work-environment free of hostility. The same goes for college admissions, in 2017 Harvard even rescinded acceptance offers to 10 incoming undergraduate students after discovering they were publishing inappropriate posts on Facebook.

  • Irresponsible drinking or drug use: While a photo of you sipping a glass of wine when you’re over the age of 21 shouldn’t be a big deal, if alcohol or drugs feature heavily into your social media presence employers may assume that this is an important part of your personal life. Drinking and drug use is viewed as a potential liability to employers - 38% of hiring managers rejected candidates based on this kind of information.

  • Criminal behavior: Criminal behavior is regularly cited as a reason for employers to not hire a potential candidate. Don’t engage in this type of behavior online or off!

  • Sexually explicit content: Employers want to make sure that their employees have access to a safe and professional working environment. They also have to promote a work culture that is in line with all HR policies. Employees who post or share sexually explicit content on social media are flagged as potential disruptors to that sort of work environment. At least 39% of hiring managers rejected candidates based on provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos or information that they found on social media.

  • Unprofessional communication style: While this may seem like a subjective red flag, employers want to ensure that their employees choose to communicate in a way that they deem professional. According to jobvite, 65% of recruiters are turned off by profanity, while 61% reject candidates with examples of spelling or grammar errors on their social media profiles. And if you’re a student, try to keep from live tweeting disparaging remarks about the college your visiting… the admissions officers will see it.

How to Remove Red Flags on Social Media

If you haven’t scanned your online presence for potential red flags, or you think you may be guilty of some of the flags mentioned above, don’t worry just yet. Take a deep breath, you’re not alone.

As the years go by our perspectives change and what we posted in the past may not represent who we are today.

However, you don’t want something that you wrote 10 years ago to come back to haunt you. But with thousands of personal posts and photos across your social media accounts - the auditing process can seem a little bit daunting.

That’s why we’ve created tools and resources that save you time and improve your accuracy for identifying and removing risky posts and images.

Once you’ve read through the introductory guides in BrandYourself University, check out our tutorial, “How to Use our DIY Software”.

This takes you through the entire process of cleaning up your online presence and building a personal brand that wins professional opportunities. Regularly monitor your online presence for risk factors, even after that initial screening. And make a point to be conscious about what you’re posting.

Take precautions when posting

One of the best ways to combat negative content on social media is to be more thoughtful before you post anything. Asking yourself the following questions before you post, comment, publish, tweet, snap, etc.:


Would I want my boss/teacher/child/parent to see this?

While this question may be an instant buzz kill, it’s important to think about. Maybe what you’re about to post is really only meant for some of your friends. If the idea of someone outside of your immediate circle of friends seeing this makes you uneasy, you probably shouldn’t be posting it.

Would I do that on TV?

Imagining that what you’re about to post isn’t being shared on social media, but instead being broadcast on a TV. If this makes you shudder, definitely do not post. Nowadays social media has the potential to make the most obscure comments, videos, tweets etc go viral - this can rival or exceed the viewership of a TV audience. Keep that in mind the next time you post.

Are people going to have a lot to say about this?

If the answer is yes, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Just consider whether this would be positive or negative for you. If something your posting has the potential of gaining a lot of traction, be honest with whether or not that bothers you.

Is this actually funny?

People tend to get in a lot of trouble when they try to make jokes on social media. Comments are easily taken out of context and can be completely misread because of this. That’s why we urge you to take a hard look before posting something that you think is funny.

Do I really need other people to witness this?

So many people shoot themselves in the foot with things they choose to post publicly. And the more you post, the greater your chances for doing something that hurts your online reputation. That’s why we suggest that you be selective and discerning with what you post.

Software Features That Matter in the Reputation Builder

social posts gone wrong

Social Posts

BrandYourself’s DIY software uses SocialScan technology to identify any red flags that cause hiring managers to reject candidates.

flagged images


BrandYourself’s DIY software uses CleanImage technology to scan social media for photos that could get you fired.

BrandYourself Can Help

To learn more visit our DIY software tutorial. Don’t have the time? Let BrandYourself’s Managed Services department help. Give us a call at 646.863.8226 or schedule a free consultation with a Reputation Advisor to discuss how we can clean up your social media accounts and build a winning personal brand for you.

Dealing With Negative Search Results →