Protecting your online reputation has never been more important than it is today–for all of us. As the world races to the web to search for information, what people say about you is readily accessible and easily shared. Positive reputations, painstakingly built over time, can be quickly damaged or tarnished.
As Warren Buffet has said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” We would all do well to heed that advice.
People talk. And nowadays, people share those conversations online.
According to Megan Gibson, of Time Magazine, “…a 2010 study by Microsoft and Cross-Tab, a market-research agency, found that 78% of surveyed U.S. companies examined the search-engine results of prospective hires. The study also found that 86% of employers reported that a positive online reputation factors into their hiring decision. Which means all those persistent online links, videos and blog smears could become a major financial liability.”
The potential for online reputation damage lurks around every corner. I know this one firsthand. Not long after Twitter introduced its Lists function in late 2009, I checked to see which lists I had been added to.
Imagine my surprise.
Among the lists I had been added to was one called “People I Have Seen Naked”, created by a Twitter friend I had never met in person. I was also included in a list created by a porn star (also someone I had never met).
Not the professional image I was working to build as my digital footprint.
I quickly remedied the situation by blocking the porn star, which removed me from that list, and sent a direct message to the Twitter friend whose “People I have Seen Naked” list included my name. I explained that I used Twitter as a professional tool and would appreciate being removed from his list. He took action immediately and told me that he was just trying to “liven up” his list names.
We still chuckle over that one.
A few weeks ago I got a call from a CEO who was frantic over an altercation that took place on Twitter. An unhappy customer had created a Twitter account solely to share disparaging comments about the business and its service. The CEO, caught off guard, responded angrily and a Twitter war of words ensued.
We talked about it briefly. He had apologized for his caustic tweets already and went on to invite his Twitter followers to visit his company and judge for themselves. The fact that he owned up to his angry responses and immediately apologized took the wind out of the sails of his critic.
A quick check of his Twitter page today shows many enthusiastic comments about the company’s products and services. Crisis averted.
According to the 2010 Pew Internet study, Reputation Management and Social Media, 57% of adult internet users check search engines to find information about themselves online–which also means that 43% of adult internet users do not.
So what do you do to protect your online reputation? Start here:
- Set up realtime alerts for your name and other related keywords. Use Google Alerts and Tweetbeep (a Twitter alert system that emails you when your keywords are used on Twitter) to stay abreast of mentions of your name.
- Monitor mentions of your name and keywords and respond as quickly as possible to negative comments.
- Reserve your name across the social web including social networks, social media tools and domain names for possible future websites. You can easily check and reserve your name, product name, or user name, with a tool like Knowem.com or NameCheck.com.
- Establish a strong positive online presence. Participate in social networks, comment on blogs and share positive content on a regular basis.
If this sounds overwhelming, or like it may take up too much time, use a service like BrandYourself.com to simplify management of these functions and stay on top of your online reputation.
What do you do if you find damaging information about yourself online?
- Assess the damage. How much of what is being said is true? How damaging is it?
- If you are at fault, acknowledge your responsibility and apologize.
- Delete any negative information or images if possible. Some service providers will delete defamatory information under certain circumstances although you may have to meet their burden of proof.
- Push negative mentions down in search results by creating and posting positive content. Use social network updates on Facebook, Linkedin and Google Plus, microblog comments on Twitter, blog posts, reviews on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor and images on Pinterest that include your name and keywords.
- If you don’t already have one, create a Google Plus profile and link to the positive content you are sharing.
Over time, the positive information will come up earlier in search engine results and most people don’t go beyond the first page of search results. Just remember, taking proactive steps to protect your online reputation will save you so much time, effort and even anguish. It may also protect your ability to find work or new customers.
If you think this information has value value for your friends, colleagues or clients, please share this post with them. Have I overlooked something? Comment and let me know what tactics you’ve found useful.