As an individual in the digital age, your online presence can significantly impact your future career and personal life.
While you might think creating a username, setting up privacy settings, and monitoring your search results are enough to manage your online reputation, there is so much more that goes into it. Fortunately, there are things you can do proactively to manage your personal reputation online.
In this article, we’ll cover how to keep your reputation clean to ensure it makes a positive. contribution to your personal brand. Keep reading for more!
Is it really that important?
Yes! particularly if you are in the job market, have a career in which your reputation is critical to your success or understand the importance of your personal brand.
It is common for recruiters, clients, and employers to search the web for information about applicants, business partners, and employees.
Here are some stats from The Harris Poll.
71% of hiring decision-makers agree that looking at candidates' social media profiles is an effective way to screen applicants.
70% believe employers should screen all applicants’ social media profiles, while the majority (67%) say they use social networking sites to research potential job candidates.
For those using social networking to research candidates, more than half (55%) have found content that caused them not to hire the applicant.
And even after the candidate has gotten the job, 78% of U.S. hiring decision-makers believe employees should maintain a work-appropriate social media profile.
Think that the people getting caught out by recruiters searching their profile are an inexperienced minority? Check out some of the incredible discoveries made by recruiters that led to a candidate not getting a job.
40% because provocative or inappropriate material was found
36% because of drinking or drugs
31% because of discriminatory comments
30% because of criminal behaviour
You can view the full survey below.
Its not just your career that can suffer the consequences of a poor online reputation. According to research by Status Labs 48% of people have searched for someone before a first date and found information that made them decide to cancel their plans.
I was surprised when filling out a visa application to go to the US a year or two ago that they requested my social media details. I can only assume they too check social media for evidence of criminal behaviour.
On the flipside a positive online reputation can boost your career and open doors that you might otherwise have been unable to access. Intelligent comments or engaging blog posts, for example, might lead to promotions, new clients, and new opportunities in your current position.
Photos, videos, tweets and comments can all easily be found online, even those from years ago. Don't let them come back to haunt you.
Your online footprint is important and reaches further than you probably even know.
Start by surveying your current reputation
Take stock of what is currently out there about you by doing a Google search looking at both the image and website results. Put your name in quotation marks and try adding your location, employers name and any other secondary supplemental information that can narrow down results.
But be prepared for what you may find. In an article by Entrepreneur they stated that:
33% of Google search results are influenced by other individuals of the same name
20% of people find outdated or flat out inaccurate information
12% are "unpleasantly surprised" by what they find, though it may not be necessarily incorrect
8% unfortunately find embarrassing or reputation damaging information
While it is possible you may find information about those with the same name as you and you can't control that, at least you are able to refute and explain this once you are aware of it rather than simply being in the dark.
Do internal searches on all of the main social media platforms including Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, TikTok and Instagram as comments and posts on these platforms may not have shown up on the Google search.
Examine these results and consider carefully whether they portray you in the best light. If you wouldn't say something in the workplace, you shouldn't post it online. What you and your friends find harmless and unimportant may be damaging and unappealing to a potential business partner or employer. Consider the mindset of someone who doesn’t know you and what they think about what they find. Your search results should appear professional.
Manage what is already out there
You should aim to have at least the first two pages of a Google search as clean and positive as possible. If you have found unfavourable information on social media start going through each post, review, comment or any other compromising interaction and change or delete it. If you do not have that control ask the page admin to remove it.
If material is written about you that reflects poorly, check that your response was calm and professional but leave it as is. This is because Google favours new information and responding to a post from years ago will just refresh the content and make it more likely to be picked up and displayed on a search.
Google may delete content or images at your request, but only if certain laws are being broken. If you believe that inaccurate or private information about you is being published online, you may report the issue and ask for the material to be taken down. Do so by going to https://support.google.com/legal/answer/3110420?visit_id=638043944041427253-1396080707&hl=en&rd=2
Next lock down your personal social media profiles to private (with the exception of Linkedin). If you still want to have a public social media presence, then consider making new profiles designed to support your personal brand.
Now that you have done what you can retrospectively it is time to be proactive and start to build a digital footprint that positively reinforces your personal brand.
Following are some steps you can take to start managing your online reputation. There are also businesses that you can hire to assist you with this including Status Labs who also wrote a great article about this subject. You can read it here. However, unless you are dealing with a very problematic online presence or need to repair and manage the reputation of a business, the following tips should be all you need to take back control of your online standing.
Set up a Google Alert. This is a free tool that you can set up to be notified when anything is published on the internet using keywords like your name. Just go to https://www.google.com.au/alerts to get started.
Define what you want your online reputation to be
Now it is time to clearly define what you do want your online reputation to say about you. Quite simply it needs to align to your personal brand and position you to support your goals and objectives. For example do you want to be seen at a thought leader/expert in your field, do you want to show care for others, family focus, or success in business?
With this clearly defined you can mentally refer back to it whenever engaging online to check that whatever comments or posts you are about to make supports the vision you have for yourself.
Take your cue from others
Analyse one or two people you admire. How do they conduct themselves online? What digital channels do they own and what are they used for? What kind of content do they post? How do they deal with negativity? Learn and apply the habits and techniques that others use to support their success to strengthen your own online reputation.
Claim and create social media profiles
Even if you don't use them actively it can be beneficial to claim social media sites using your name. This prevents someone claiming someone wither with the same name or posing as you first and potentially posting malicious or damaging content.
Create a profile for each channel with information that is consistent with your personal brand. Ensure details are also consistent across your channels. For example, your work history on Linkedin should reflect the same on Facebook and align with your resume.
If you already have profiles, 'clean' them by removing unflattering photos, rephrasing the language in your posts if needed, and reviewing your friends list to ensure it contains only people who also value their reputation. Also disable tagging of you in photos or set it to where you have to manually approve all tags to be made public. Flood out the old, unflattering photos with new, professional ones.
Whilst it is generally a good idea to lock your social media profiles to private, if you have career aspirations you should have a Linkedin profile that is open to all. You can see more about creating a Linkedin profile that creates and protects your personal brand here or below.
Claiming and creating profiles also has SEO value, which means you have a greater chance of the details you want to be public showing on the first search page on Google.
Create good content
Blitz out any unfavourable information with a consistent program of quality content creation. Blogging is a great way to demonstrate your expertise and thought leadership. Be sure to share them to Linkedin and any other public digital owned assets.
Consider creating a portfolio website to showcase your achievements and host your blogs there. Claiming a domain with your name is a smart move for several reasons. Firstly, it prevents anyone else from claiming the URL with your name in it and potentially using it for nefarious purposes and it is extremely valuable for SEO purposes. Purchasing your domain can often be secured for as little as $20 per year and places such as Wix have free website options.
Ensure you include your name and other keywords that people may use to search for you in your blogs and other content. Remember that the Google algorithms favour new content so you can't create a barrage of material then suddenly stop. Make a calendar of realistic and sustainable activity and stick to it. Be clear about the focus and goals of your content to give you direction.
If you aren't a writer tell a story with some great photos or case studies of your work. Again, be sure it is tagged with your name and other important keywords.
Be careful with your comments
If you wouldn't say it out loud at work then don't say it online. Just one off the cuff comment made in the heat of the moment can be enough to topple all of your hard work. Check out this Bored Panda article which has a host of social media mistakes that have cost people their careers and more.
Check out this one for example:
Resist the urge to make a less than good natured comment on an ex-partners page and think twice before you vent your fury in an online review. Your personal social media accounts and online comments should never be in question.
If you are on the receiving end of some negativity online don't take the bait. Assume the best of people and even use it as an opportunity to resolve issues. This is a particularly good strategy if you receive negative comments about your business. This is a golden opportunity to turn a disgruntled customer into a loyal fan for potential new clients, customers or employers to see. However, delete anything that uses profanity or anything similar that is offensive and inappropriate. And above all else, never argue. Take it offline or simply let it pass you by.
Be careful what you like
It is so quick and easy to quickly scan a post and hit the Like button but each of these likes goes into your history. Evaluate a post and its content properly. Is it based in fact, could it be interpreted as offensive, and do you want your name associated forever more with this person or business?
"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently." Warren Buffet
No online presence is not really an option
In today's uber-connected digital world the absence of any online information about you can also cause concern.
Status Labs claims that "A common misunderstanding in reputation management is that no online information equals a positive reputation. On the contrary, if your name is not showing up prominently in search results, this can either lead to confusion or raise a red flag to online searchers."
When it comes to managing your online reputation, it’s important to be proactive. This includes regularly monitoring your online presence and the content that appears when someone searches your name. Take back control by creating material that reinforces your personal brand and how you want to be seen by the world.
Be careful about what you post to social media sites and how you engage with others. Remember you can undo your personal brand with just one mis-judged click of the mouse.
Above all make sure your online reputation is positive, accurate, and representative of who you are as a person and what you want to project about yourself.
Also check out this article on small business reputation management https://www.designrush.com/agency/public-relations/reputation-management/trends/small-business-reputation-management