How to Manage Your Online Reputation
It seems like the entire world is online today. We’re sharing more and more of our lives with everyone from family, friends, and colleagues to complete strangers. Plus, other people we know are sharing things about us without our knowledge much less consent! We are all interconnected in ways we don’t even really know to complete strangers through other people we know. This is social networking at its finest! Don’t get me wrong, I think the web is a fantastic place and social networking is a critical aspect of our lives that can’t be underestimated. However, it is something we must manage carefully.
When was the last time you ran a search for your own name in the major search engines? While many people have very common names that will yield hundreds, if not hundreds of thousands, of results that give them a relative level of anonymity yet, others with unique names will find themselves quickly. The more details you know about a person, even with a very common name like John Smith, the more likely you are to locate the person you are looking for. The more active you are on the web, the more results you will find for even unique names. If I run a search using Google for my own name, I get 1,580,000 results and the suggestion that I have misspelled my name! I wonder just how many results you have to get before the spelling for your name is accepted?
The biggest question is what do you find when running a search on your own name? In addition to checking for major search engine results, be sure to run a search for your name at spokeo and 123people. The results you find are very literally your online reputation. They provide prospective employers, financial institutions, clients, colleagues, friends, family, and so on with a lot of information about the accuracy of what you have told them about you. The biggest question here is are the results accurate? This is your reputation and if there are inaccuracies, you have to try to do something about them or overwhelm the results with new links so that no one would dig deep enough to discover it! Managing your online reputation is critical to your personal and professional success.
So what do I find in searching for myself? Of the page one results in Google for my name, four are actually me and none of the rest of the women with my name seem to be easily mistaken for me- this is a good start. If I add in the city and state I live in, this ups the number of accurate results to six. If I add in quotation marks around my name, it ups it to 100% of the page one results. What you can learn about me is that I have pages at LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook, and Naymz, have a Google Profile, have worked at places listed in my resume, donate to charity, and have held other last names. There is nothing here that is something that I wouldn’t want the world to know thankfully. The main reason is that I consciously manage my reputation.
Managing your online reputation involves intentionally putting information on the web that you want people to know about you in a variety of places. You have to make personal decisions about what personal and professional information you want to share. Remember, once it is out there, it is very difficult to get it removed. Don’t rely on “privacy settings” to protect you from over-sharing! As many people have learned recently, these settings are unreliable on virtually all sites, so my golden rule is that if you wouldn’t want everyone to know it or see it, then don’t post it anywhere on the web.
The following is a list of websites that I think are excellent ways to get started taking control of your online reputation:
Using these websites is a great start to managing your reputation. Other excellent ways to take control include writing your own blog, commenting on other blogs in the areas of your expertise or interests, submitting articles to directories, and commenting on news stories.
Ultimately, you will find that managing your online reputation is a lot more work than maintaining it in the physical world. Online, everyone and anyone can connect with each other regardless of location, which is significantly less likely in person. Finally, it is important to be aware that what you do in the physical world may very well make it to the electronic one because so many people are broadcasting their lives online that you will come across. It gives a whole new meaning to “big brother is watching” now doesn’t it!