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How To Protect YOUR Online Reputation

 

Do not leave your reputation to chance or gossip; it is your life's artwork, and you must craft it, hone it, and display it with the care of an artist. ~Robert Greene, Author "The 48 Laws of Power"

 

Your reputation precedes you. Whether that’s an advantage or not is largely up to the world wide web - search engines that catalog everything, blogs and websites where others talk about you as a professional and as a person, social media sites where you get tagged whether you’re on it or not. That’s a lot of channels where your name can be misrepresented, misused or misconstrued as a misanthropist.

 

Here are moves you can immediately execute to G-U-A-R-D your online reputation:

 

Grasp : Why Protect Your Online Reputation?

 

I’m betting you’ve googled your name at least once before, out of morbid curiosity or mild vanity. Well, clients, journalists, partners, employers, employees, casual acquaintances, virtually anyone who comes across your name or receives your business card will look you up on a search engine for different reasons - and will leave with a stronger impression based on what they find there. In other words, your profile online translates to your offline reputation and vice versa.

 

The adage “think before you talk/act” now has “because it’ll be heard/seen online” to complete the thought. There are enough embarrassingly damaging evidence of this in executives declaring one thing officially to the public, while behind (what they thought to be) closed doors, they are caught saying something else. The take away lesson? Marketer Andy Beal says it’s to have sincerity, transparency, consistency as 3 words to live by in this digital age.

 

Unflinching honesty : What Could Damage Your Reputation?

 

Take stock of what may be a cause for controversy or misinterpretation - your involvement in high profile or sensitive projects, strong statements on personal convictions, even issues linked to your affiliations. Knowing what questions may be raised online about your professional and personal life helps you prepare for potentially uncomfortable exchanges, instead of catching you entirely by surprise.

 

This isn’t limited to anything written. Use Google, Yahoo or Bing Image/Video search, too, to look up photo/footage results for your name. Aside from embarrassing/compromising media making their way online, there have also been cases when personal pictures have been used without the owner’s permission. Check your privacy settings and delete unflattering content. On the flip side, be sure to tag yourself on photos that generate positive impressions, such as snapshots from that exclusive industry dinner you attended or that well-attended lecture you gave.

 

Ahead : What Can You Do To Be Proactive?

 

If you can, claim your domain name, because chances are you’ll have a doppleganger with the same name somewhere in the world. Once you’ve declared your place online - whether with a personal website, blog, or social media account - put your best foot forward with a dapper layout and engaging content. You invest in your personal grooming, wardrobe, gadgets and other accessories to impress people you meet - your virtual persona should do no less.

 

Being on the high speed information highway makes regularly producing fresh content a must (it’s what search engines favor). This timing is also crucial when your reputation encounters any attack, nipping it in the bud can save you snowballing unwanted attention. Should any situation arise, it will be easier to handle when you have taken measures to manage your online reputation, than if you are starting from scratch. Hence, the importance of actively building your reputation online now rather than in the midst of bad publicity.

 

If you can’t delete discrediting content, and given that it’s not possible to chase after your every critic, turn to reducing its visibility by constantly sharing positive information. Social Media expert Antony Mayfield points out, “If you can’t delete, compete...majority of cases the best course is to make sure you are the first and best source of information about yourself.” Your goal is for favorable content to appear within the first results page of typing key words such as your name or your position in the company.

 

Relationships : Are You Connected To The Right People?

 

Look for the centers of influence for your profession, places where you'll find relevant conversations to engage in and showcase your expertise, work or company. Start with existing networks - your alma mater, company, civic organizations, professional organizations - then branch out to groups you aspire to become associated with and meet new contacts. Boost your online footprint by leaving comments on articles and sites you want your name to be affiliated with, or by linking back to your own content.

 

Your profile on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have more SEO clout because of the way they are built, and therefore will likely come up among the first results of any search inquiry. Make the most out of them by completing your profile, create relationships with colleagues, join interest groups, and share content that is aligned with the professional image you want to show.

 

Do More : How Do You Take It To The Next Level?

 

One of the easiest steps to monitoring your online reputation is by setting up Google Alerts on your dashboard. This feature sends you an email alert whenever it picks up new content that uses keywords you indicate (i.e. your name). This gives you the ability to track whenever you are mentioned, as often as you check your email.

 

There are also several online reputation management service providers such as Brand-Yourself.com, Trackur.com, and Reputation.com that make it there business to protect your name. You may consider this especially if you are taking a broader, more serious digital approach in your profession.

 

At the end of the day, however, G-U-A-R-D-ing can only do so much with what you have already established yourself. That said, being safe is always better than being sorry, and these calculated moves add several more layers of security. As Robert Greene captures so fervently, “So much depends on reputation - guard it with your life.”

 

 

 

References:

 

Greene, Robert. “The 48 Laws of Power.” Penguin (Business). Sept 2000.

 

Beal, Andy. “Ten Tactics That Could Save Your Online Reputation.” <http://mashable.com/2008/03/11/online-reputation/>. 14 Nov 2011.

 

Kessler, Sarah. “HOW TO: Manage Your Online Reputation Using SEO.” <http://mashable.com/2011/06/27/manage-online-reputation-seo/>. 13 Nov 2011.

 

Mabeal, Antony. “3 Tips for Managing Your Online Reputation.” <http://mashable.com/2010/04/08/managing-online-reputation/>. 14 Nov 2011.

 

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