Dear Matt: I'm on Facebook, active on Twitter and post online in many areas, such as forums. How can I protect my online reputation and do employers really check your online presence when hiring?

Matt: They most certainly do. According to a February 2010 survey by The Creative Group, 72 percent of advertising and marketing executives said that when evaluating potential hires they look for what type of results they get when searching the candidates name online. In that same survey 59 percent said they are looking to see if you have a LinkedIn presence, while 44 percent said they check to see if you have a Facebook page. In addition, 35 percent search for blog postings with your name and 23 percent look for your personal Twitter account.

Employers have more means than ever to do their due diligence on a candidate - and checking one's online reputation goes hand-in-hand with background checks and reference checks in today's job search.

"To protect your online reputation, applicants should treat social networking site like a résumé they would present to a prospective employer," says Charles H. Wilson of the law firm of Epstein, Becker, Green, Wickliff & Hall. "Avoid typos, inappropriate pictures or images (and anything else) that would reflect the applicant in a negative manner."

So how can one protect their online reputation? The Creative Group offers these tips:

Create employer-friendly profiles. Make sure the information on your LinkedIn or Facebook pages showcases not just your personal interests and hobbies, but also your expertise, dedication to your field and ability to communicate effectively.

Optimize your information. Help employers find you online by integrating key words that describe your skills, specialties and positions of interest into your profiles. For example, if you're an advertising copywriter specializing in the automotive industry, you might include terms such as "copywriter," "automotive" and "ad copy" into your profile.

Keep certain details under wraps. Use privacy settings effectively so information that you don't want employers to see won't show up in a search. Also, avoid publishing anything that could damage your reputation, even to an audience of friends. You don't want comments made in the heat of the moment to come back to haunt you.

Self-promote. Your ability to post thought-provoking commentary and build a large Twitter or Facebook following can influence an employer's decision to hire you. Be sure to include URLs to professional profiles when communicating with hiring managers.