The perfect graduation gift: A $100 widget to scrub social media accounts of embarrassing posts

This is why it’s easy to sell your parents online reputation management software.
This is why it’s easy to sell your parents online reputation management software.
Image: REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
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Many of today’s high school and college students have been posting to social media since they were young teenagers—and not always with future employers in mind.

Meanwhile, almost half of the employers surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management in 2015 said they used social media or search results to screen candidates, and more than a third said they had disqualified a candidate based on those screenings. New social-media screening products like those offered by Social Intelligence and Fama make it easy to find objectionable posts buried in job candidates’ social media accounts.

It was only a matter of time before a company capitalized on parents’ fears that their children’s social-media activity would make them unemployable.

BrandYourself, a startup that sells online reputation management software, recently introduced an option for parents to buy the product as a gift for their children. “We tried to line it up with graduation,” CEO Patrick Ambron says.

For a premium subscription fee of $100 per year, BrandYourself helps users apply search-engine optimization strategies to minimize negative search results and build a positive web presence. It recommends that users—typically job seekers between the ages of 25 and 45—build profiles on websites across the web and link them to a central BrandYourself profile, in order to offer a positive alternative to negative links. It also scans social-media profiles to flag those that might play poorly with potential employers or college admissions officers: Posts that mention drug use, alcohol, sex or a former employer in a negative way, for instance. Users can choose to delete or keep each flagged post. The technology does not currently scan photos.

BrandYourself has been in business since 2010, and, according to the company, has about 30,000 paying members (500,000 use the free version).

It only recently identified parents as a good target market. “Kids very much need this, but we’ve never gotten them to buy it themselves,” Ambron says.  ”They’ll use it if someone buys it from them.”

Before parents, the company sold the product to universities, which offered free accounts to their students. Only about five schools signed up.

Parents have a more personal concern for their children’s online-reputation hygiene, and perhaps even one strong enough to justify a $100-per-year software subscription.

A free alternative? Help your child set their account settings to “private” and buy a more exciting graduation present.