You create an online persona through all your online comments, including tweets, snapshots, videos, and links.
What’s at stake?
Most all of us have Googled our names at least once. But that’s not enough! It’s important to monitor your online information regularly, searching all variations of your name, to root out – or at least be able to respond to – any damaging information about you or your business. I just did a search on myself and found 8-9 pages of information, a number that has been increasing yearly. Fortunately, my ‘dossier’ is routine. I see that a few of my information files are factually, yet harmlessly, inaccurate, most likely the result of automated information gathering errors.
Your online persona is a composite
You create an online persona through all your online comments, including tweets, snapshots, videos, and links. Even if you’ve been smart enough to avoid posting questionable photos and comments, be aware that anyone can post negative, even knowingly false, information about you or your business. Above all, think before you post! Carefully avoid including anything on your social media profiles that would put you in a negative light. Consider creating two Facebook profiles – one that is for friends, the other for everyone else.
- If you haven’t already, by all means set up a free Google Alert:
- Go to www.google.com/dashboard, log in with your Google ID (e.g., Gmail, Google+);
- Under ‘Me on the Web,’ click the ‘Set up search alerts for your data’ alert;
- Select boxes for either ‘your name,’ or ’email.’ By the way, do NOT set up a search for your social security number, because that would make it visible to potential hackers; and
- Select how often you want to receive alerts and ‘save.’
Other free online reputation monitoring tools include:
- reputation.com – free service that reviews blogs, online databases, and other sources;
- TweetBeep – similar to Google Alert, but for Twitter posts;
- Technorati – which monitors the blogosphere for your name or any search term you set up.
Can I remove unwanted content from the Internet?
What if a quick search reveals that there is information on the net (pictures, text, etc.) you’d like deleted? Sometimes there’s an easy solution : for example, among its protective tools, FB allows you to remove photo tags posted by others. Unfortunately, there’s often nothing you can do, at least not without professional help. That said, first try the following strategy: As above, under First Steps, go to www.google.com/dashboard and log in with your Google ID (e.g., Gmail, Google+); Click ‘Remove content from another site from Google’s search results;’ and choose the link for the type of content you want removed, and follow the instructions.
What is going on with the world of online reputation? Here are a few statistics for you:
There are those who can and will post damaging information about you
We’re all vulnerable
We provided an introduction to proactively managing your online reputation. We at OWDT highly recommended that you regularly search all variations of your name to make sure nothing has been posted that might undermine your reputation. You don’t need to participate in online media or even go online frequently to have an online dossier. Be aware that there are those who can and will post damaging information about you, sometimes with calculated intent to cause harm.
Too many fail to consider consequences
A recent international survey revealed that over 90 percent of us have done something to edit our online information, yet only 44 percent of adults report being concerned about the long-term consequences of their online activities.
Once the proverbial train has left the station, deleting damaging personal information on your own – or even with professional help – can eat up valuable resources, especially time. At worst, it can result in costly legal action with no certainty of success. On average, states allow only a year to take action against a person or entity posting damaging information about you. If you do require legal help, make sure your lawyer has a solid record of Internet experience.
Essential rules of the road
The following guidelines apply to everyone. If you have children, online impulse control can be a hard sell, but do your absolute best to persuade them to adhere to the following principles for their long-term protection:
- Think before you post! Who are you sharing it with? Would you be comfortable if your boss, your parents, or your direct reports ran across it? How will it look to people 15 years from now? One recent estimate is that 80% of recruiters use search engines to research and screen new candidates, a figure rapidly closing in on 100%. Especially sobering: 70% of candidates have been eliminated because of damaging online information.
- Treat people online as you wish to be treated. Consider others’ reputations and privacy when posting anything that can be linked back to them (including pictures). Discuss this issue with your friends and acquaintances. Ask them to remove anything that you do not want disclosed.
- To maintain your personal safety, avoid location check-ins on social sites or posting where you are going, especially if you are alone. Don’t share your address or the dates you plan to be out of town.
- NEVER ‘flame,’ attack/bully others. Do not lie or plagiarize information. The Internet is not anonymous. Current technology allows your online comments to be traced back to your computer. Skilled hackers may be the only exception here, but their immunity is usually only temporary.
- Don’t use your full name when posting comments on blogs where people are debating controversial issues. In such online environments, always use a nickname/pen name/pseudonym. Remember that even if your assertions are civil, others who are less temperate may decide to slander you for your differing opinion.
- Avoid poor spelling and grammar. This is important! Thoroughly proofread your online comments and documents, especially resumes, before submitting them. In most cases, employers will not hire you if your resume, cover letter, or even online postings are poorly written. And don’t forget that friends, family, or coworkers who view your social network comments may say nothing, but will think less of you if they see consistent grammatical errors.
When did you last update your online professional information?
So far in this Protecting Your Online Reputation blogpost we discussed how to-
- Remove unwanted content from the Internet, and
- Avoid posting information that could damage your name.
This final installment is focused on how to PROACTIVELY improve your online reputation.
Updating and improving your online profiles
When did you last update your online professional information? Any time you report a job promotion, new publication, or professional / community recognition, you gain a competitive advantage over those who don’t take the time to do so. Another major benefit: the more you post on social media, the easier it will be to ‘crowd out’ and lower the rank of any negative online information about you or your company.
- Revisit your LinkedIn and/or CareerBuilder profiles. Understand that they should integrate a crisp presentation of your professional credentials with personal information describing your values and passions. Is your LinkedIn profile written in first person? Unlike resumes and bios, your LinkedInprofile is best written in the first person to create a friendly, approachable impression.
- Other commonly accessed profiles are on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Each has its own preferred style.
- Write each profile carefully, highlighting the professional expertise, personal , attributes, and accomplishments you’d like others to acknowledge you for. Always write three or four drafts before posting to ensure that your profiles are well written, with absolutely NO typos, grammatical, or punctuation errors.
- Take advantage of a new Google tool at google.com/profiles that lets you create profiles and determine what appears first when someone conducts a search about you. It lets you put your best foot forward by linking your name to reputation-enhancing URLs, photos, and other information.
Using social media to connect with other professionals
- Are you using professional social media to actively expand your network? Do you post links to information that is of value to your contacts? Do you regularly contribute carefully considered insights as a member of online professional group discussions? Bottom line: are you cultivating a reputation as a ‘thought leader’ who is willing to help others develop professionally?
- Have you solicited LinkedIn recommendations? You may have friends who have offered to write you a glowing recommendation but who don’t follow through for lack of time. One simple solution: provide them with an outline of the main points you’d like them to include in their recommendation. Then carefully proof whatever they write before posting.
- Consider launching a blog with social media links. Writing a blog is indispensable for anyone who wants to establish a reputation as a subject matter expert. Let OWDT give you a memorably beautiful, website with smooth navigation to enhance your brand and professional visibility. If you have a limited budget, you can use a free template to build a simple website with blog functionality.
Some final suggestions
- By all means, search for online accounts you no longer use. There may be potentially damaging personal information there that you long ago forgot about. Delete it before the site changes its privacy policies.
- Buy the domain names for yourself and your children before others do, especially if you can get the .com and .net versions.
- To view your online ‘information mosaic,’ check out one or more of the following major people databases: Spokeo.com, MyLife.com, ussearch.com, whitepages, and PeopleFinder.com. You’ll then be able to see what these data bases say about your home address, age, income, phone number, and a plethora of other information.
- If you don’t like what you see, Reputation.com, charges $99 a year for its MyPrivacy service to identify, remove, and keep your information off the Web and out of commercial databases. It also offers technology to stop others from collecting your information using cookies, to help prevent more data from getting out.