Online reputation management is doing big business these days, delivering vital brand-enhancing services to small businesses and Fortune 500 companies alike. That businesses should be interested in shaping and controlling how they are portrayed on the Web is totally understandable; in an age of instant news access, to say nothing of Yelp reviews and online BBB complaints, online reputation management provides an invaluable wall of protection to brands of all kinds. If you think it’s just for corporations, though, you couldn’t be more wrong.
The truth is that even individuals need to watch out for how they are portrayed on the Web. Consider the ramifications of allowing your online reputation to go unchecked. You might walk into a job interview totally unprepared to field questions about a negative online listing, or an embarrassing photo turned up on Facebook or Google. It could cost you the job, to say nothing of your dignity! And if you think dates and new neighbors aren’t checking up on you online, think again.
Unfortunately, managing your reputation is tougher today than it’s ever been. There was a time when avoiding arrests or DUI mug shots was really all it took. Now, thanks to Google, a single, fifteen-year-old frat party photo can surface at any time and ruin your image.
The good news is, there is such a thing as DIY reputation management for individuals. Here are a few tricks of the trade.
Monitoring is Everything
The most obvious starting point is with reputation monitoring. Knowing what’s out there about you in Google-land can help you respond appropriately — and it can give you time to prepare a reasonable explanation for that job interview, keeping unsavory surprises to a minimum!
Start by conducting online searches for yourself, and for any nicknames or online handles you go by. Setting up a Google or Yahoo alert can also be beneficial. Additionally, make sure you log out of your Google account before searching — otherwise, you’ll get “personalized” results that may not tell you the whole story about your online reputation.
Building Your Brand
Even if you’re only worried about your individual reputation — not the reputation of a company — it’s still, basically, a matter of brand management. It’s about branding yourself online, and making sure that your personal brand is only presented in the best light possible.
That means you’ve got to start building your name. Maintaining plenty of strong, positive online assets is a good start. At the bare minimum, a personal website or blog, plus active social media accounts, are important. By populating the Web with content, you are essentially filling the first page of Google and Bing with good, non-embarrassing information about yourself — so that potential employer or would-be date will see only the good stuff, not the negatives!
Coming up with content can be a little tricky, of course, but you can always make an online resume site — a great way to create a strong online portrayal of yourself, and appeal to hiring managers, as well!
Making sure you have control of all pertinent domains is also essential, even if you don’t plan to use them all. For example, if you have a unique name, like Maynard Sanchez, you’ll want to make sure that you own the rights to MaynardSanchez.com, .org, and so on. Remember that if you own then, nobody else can use them against you — so even if you leave those domains basically empty, just having them to yourself can go a long way.
Social Media Secrets
Of course, social networking is a big part of building your personal brand — but for all of the advantages that social networks offer, there are also a few words of caution to keep in mind. The first, and perhaps the biggest, is to make sure you know and understand your privacy settings. If your account is hacked and unfavorable or unwelcome content is published, in your name, it can prove utterly ruinous. And of course, you don’t want to have to spend precious minutes of your job interview explaining that your account was hacked because you don’t know what privacy settings are!
With this caution noted, however, it’s important to also think about of the box when it comes to social interaction. Facebook and Twitter are obvious ways to build your online brand, but there are also more industry-oriented, niche sites and directories where you can establish an online presence. Google around for a bit and see if there are professional or academic listings in which you might start a profile.
The Bottom Line
Of course, it would be easy to say that reputation management is as simple as this: Don’t do anything stupid that could one day lead to Google embarrassment! Life isn’t that simple, of course, which is why it’s important to keep an eye on how your name is used on the Internet — and to do everything you can to protect it!
About the Author:
A serial internet entrepreneur with an extensive background in direct marketing, affiliate marketing, and online reputation management. In addition, Rich manages the Direct Response industry’s official blog where he shares his thoughts on Direct Response Marketing. Currently, Rich leads the team at www.reputationchanger.com.