If you haven’t done it yet, take a moment to Google yourself and sift through the images and results on the first few pages. Find what’s out there and possible for people to see, if they do really want to dig up information about you. Consider the mindset of someone who doesn’t know you and what they might think about what they find.
Just as you maintain your physical hygiene, you need to maintain your online reputation if you want to make good first impressions in today’s digitally-driven world.
Your online reputation is not something you can afford to ignore if you are serious about doing business in the modern world. The stakes are high and just by following a few easy reputation management tips you can begin to take the first steps in controlling your reputation and putting your best foot forward online.
Consider Your Personal Brand and Goals
Now that you know what’s out there and you know how you look online, it’s time to start thinking about a makeover. Who will be Googling you and what do you want them to see? This is your personal brand, and it’s important for anyone who wants to maintain a well-manicured online image.
Make a list of positive traits and images you want your online portrait to show. For example, you might want to be seen as a thought leader in your respective field, a public speaker, family person, volunteer, successful business owner, or all of the above. Whatever your ideal image and brand is, first define it.
Work towards this list daily. Don’t squabble with others, or take critical feedback personally. Often the most critical feedback is the hardest pill to swallow but also the most helpful when looked at objectively.
Also it would be helpful to identify the biggest influencer’s in your field. How are they using social media and interacting with their followers. What are they doing to engage their audiences? There is so much to learn by taking cues from the most successful people in your respective field. Building your personal brand is something that takes time but by taking cues from the most successful people in your field, many of the habits and techniques that have made others successful can be learned and applied to your unique brand.
Claim and Create Social Media Profiles
Changing your online reputation in 2018 requires attention to social media. A whopping 81% of the United States population, as of 2017, has a social media profile and that number is expected to continue rising in coming years. Open an account on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and anywhere else that’s relevant to your personal and professional life.
Build these profiles out, post a recent positive photo of yourself and a bio that features elements of your ideal brand image.
Keep track of each profile, make a list of different social media accounts you have claimed and clean up old profiles to reflect the new online image you wish to present.
Even if you do not plan on using the sites right away, claiming these properties, will mean that no one else will be able to use them and they will still hold SEO value.
Start a Blog
Blogging does wonders for your online reputation. Frequent, useful blog posts with a good writing style will demonstrate your expertise in your chosen fields and begin to establish you as a thought leader. Remember: you’re trying to populate the first page of Google with as much content as possible. Content coming from the source (you) holds high SEO value especially regarding your name as a keyword. As you grow your audience, guest posting on other blogs relevant to your field is excellent publicity and will also have a positive influence on your online reputation. You could even do a guest blog exchange where you could post on other people’s blogs in exchange for allowing them to be a guest writer on your blog. The secret is making sure the content is relevant to your field and something that your target audience would find interesting.
Take time to think of a good name for your blog, define what the focus of your blog will be and list what you hope to gain from having a blog as goals. Draft a list of potential blog posts, read about how to create and run a blog and otherwise prepare yourself for the blogosphere by practicing transparency, humility and polite behavior at all times.
Register Your Name as a Domain
Registering your name protects you from someone else controlling your name online. Buy and develop the .com with your name on it and, if you want to be very safe, do so for common variations of your name. Using the .com with your name as your blog is an excellent place to begin.
Next, do the same for your business, if you have one.
The last thing that you want is someone else owning “YOURNAME.COM” or a social media site pretending to be you or even worse, posting defamatory comments on a site that carries your name but that you can’t control.
An easy way to curtail the possibility of this is simply to register as many online properties with your name as possible, especially your personal and business domains.
Create a Content Posting Schedule
Now that you have several social media accounts, at least one domain name, a plan for a blog and an idea of the work you have cut out, it’s time for a posting schedule. The ideal days, times and frequencies with which you should post will vary based on your target audience, field and platforms.
An important aspect regarding a posting schedule is to get into the routine of posting at certain times each day. Sporadic and infrequent posting is never good for retaining followers and engagement. You want your audience to know what to expect. Whether it’s once a day or once a week, a set posting routine will let your audience know the frequency that you will be posting and at what time. If you are posting without a set schedule, this will inevitably lead to trailing off from your posting as well as uncertainty from your audience to know when to engage with your posts. We’re all creatures of habits and having a set posting schedule will help you develop good practice with your blog.
Research each account that you have for the ideal frequency of posts for SEO (search engine optimization) and pencil them into your schedule. With a complete list, make a positing schedule that keeps each account active with positive, useful information, specific to your field. This will help build a barrier around your name that protects you from negative information.
On your blog and social media posts, adjust the settings so you can screen comments whenever possible. If not, moderate any comments that you receive and respond to them in a positive manner. It may be worthwhile consulting with a specialist about addressing negative comments in public view.
Don’t get caught in the trap of deleting every comment you don’t necessarily agree with. If someone has taken the time to engage with your content, look at this as an opportunity to create a conversation, not a personal attack. The idea is to keep the conversation going, not to shut it down just because you don’t agree with a comment. This is the easiest way to lose followers. Unless the comments are personal attacks and/or contain profanity or inappropriate language or images, let it be and seize the opportunity to spark a conversation.
In addition, review comments you might have made on Facebook or other social media websites, and delete any that could damage your reputation. Just one comment on a weekend party picture or an ex-girlfriend/boyfriend, can paint the entirely wrong picture of who you are. Your personal social media accounts and comments online should never be in question. Separate your personal from your business social accounts if the two don’t align. Over and over again old tweets or other social media posts are dug up and used against people. This is easily avoidable and should never happen to you.
Never Argue Online
If you own a small business or otherwise receive reviews, or if you’re very active on social media, chances are high that you’ll have opportunities to argue online. Resist the urge to respond emotionally, angrily, defensively or in ways that aren’t positive, polite, and professional.
Arguing online is another easy trap to fall into. We all know the illusion of anonymity that typing into a keyboard affords. Many of the worst things said online, would never be said in a real world, face-to-face scenario. Remember this, and don’t fall for troll-bait meant to trap you into an awkward circumstance.
It’s easy to go too far in an online discussion reacting to comments meant simply to provoke you. Take a deep breath. Go for a walk and ignore the trolls. You’re looking for meaningful engagement and discussion. Let trolling roll of your back. No need to engage.
Before every post, ask yourself how you would feel if asked to address what you said in front of a hiring manager. In short, never post anything that you don’t want coming back to haunt you.
Delete Old, Negative and Irrelevant Media
Track down old, negative and irrelevant media – everything from old Myspace profiles to possibly incriminating photos – and delete them. This may require contacting the websites hosting the material with a request to remove it or a requesting to access an old account.
While it’s not a bad idea to cultivate your existing profiles to your new brand image, you don’t want old drunken college photos or potentially insulting comments to come back to haunt you. Delete anything which could be perceived in the wrong light and make your personal accounts private unless they are completely aligned with your company or personal brand goals.
An easy way to locate content that you might not want to have online is to do an image search of your name. What comes up? If there is anything there that would make you think twice if you were a potential client; delete, delete, delete.
Sift through all your old social media profiles and photos to remove what you wouldn’t want to represent your current personal brand and avoid posting new content that doesn’t show you in a positive light.
Inspect What You “Like”
On profiles like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and any other website that allows you to “like” or publicly favorite posts, inspect what your name is associated with and unlike things that you don’t want to endorse under your personal brand.
Just as with other media cleanups, keep this in mind before clicking the ‘like’ button in the future. One mindless thumbs up could come back to tarnish your image in the future.
You want to engage with other meaningful content, but in a way that will never undermine your professionalism. Don’t ever hit the like button on any post or article that you could wind up regretting. Take the time to make a conscious decision about what you are supporting online.
Fact Check Everything
Just as you shouldn’t click the like button on things you don’t want to endorse, don’t post anything online without fact checking it first. Posting outdated or fake news story can easily tarnish your credibility which in turn serves to damage your reputation.
Fact checking sources will help you avoid tarnishing your reputation with a thoughtless post.
It’s amazing to thing that there is an entire industry dedicated to “fake news.” Remember. Everyone is out for a click and for some bloggers that’s all the matters. Be careful quoting material that hasn’t been verified. Websites like Snopes.com can give you a great idea about the amount of inaccurate, misleading, or simply false information being spread around the web and passed off as fact. When retweeting on Twitter or Tweet quoting, be sure that the account is the actual person that it claims to be. Often, the most credible journalists and influencers have dozens of fake accounts made by others just to post misinformation and pass it off as real. Don’t fall for one of the oldest tricks in the book.
Keep Your Privacy Settings High
If you don’t have time to peruse every like, post, photo and comment about yourself, consider setting all your privacy settings so no one who isn’t on your friends list can see your profile or interact with your comments. Once your personal profiles are hidden (or deleted, if you’d like), make new profiles and be discriminating about what you put your name on.
Your personal social media profiles should have privacy settings to stay out of sight of your boss, coworkers and anyone who isn’t in your immediate circle. Even if your friends include coworkers, it’s playing with fire when professional and personal lives intersect online. Often, it’s simply not worth the risk.
Separate the Personal and the Professional
If you don’t have separate personal and professional profiles by now, it’s time to make them. Networking with professional associates is a positive thing for your career and it shouldn’t be avoided in the name of privacy.
With the growing trend of social recruiting (recruitment based on social media profiles), a professional profile could be the key to your career success. It’ll also let you worry less about what you post on your high-privacy personal account and selectively choose what you want on your professional profiles.
Become an Expert
Becoming an expert or a thought leader in whatever field you focus on professionally will help improve your image and push down existing negative content. Attend seminars, take courses, and otherwise continue educating yourself in your field. Share your thoughts, look for speaking opportunities and establish a voice in your professional community.
When you become an expert, your recent posts and presentations will rank higher on Google, helping polish your front-page image while also boosting your career prospects, in many cases, helping you get ahead in your respective field.
Seek Positive Publicity
Not so sure about giving presentations and putting yourself in the spotlight? If you have negative content about you online, seeking positive publicity is an excellent way to reshape your online reputation. What you need to do will vary according to what field you’re in, but a bit of solid research should give you a heading.
An ORM specialist can help you decide whether positive publicity is critical for your campaign and give you a better idea of how to approach it. From volunteering with local organizations and supporting community causes to offering training seminars, you’ll likely have an array of options.
Monitor Your Name
Set up a Google alert to monitor your name – you’ll get notifications whenever something about you appears online and you’ll be able to address it quickly. This is especially useful for business owners who are monitoring for new reviews and customer comments.
Business owners should also monitor the name of their company and any products or services they provide.
Address Criticism When Necessary
Facing criticism, especially for individual online reputation management, can feel intimidating. If handled correctly, though, a positive response to a negative comment or post can make you look better. Be objective and consider who/where you are professionally to help you better assess when criticism needs to be addressed or as a professional for their opinion.
If you’re not letting an ORM specialist handle responding to criticism, research any potential legal or privacy issues that might relate to your career before responding.
Transparency is more important today than ever. The modern world places information about everyone and everything just a click away, and people who aren’t transparent are usually found out. Though being transparent is risky, avoiding transparency places you at an even greater risk if you’re in any sort of professional role.
Again, if you’re not trusting your media to a professional, research the legality and privacy acts related to your field and manage your content accordingly – in short, familiarize yourself with what should and shouldn’t be shared.
Set Realistic Goals
Even when handled by a trained team of experts, online reputation management takes time. Google updates every few weeks, not every few days, and it uses complex algorithms to decide what to keep on the front page. One or two days of hard work and posting will not be enough to push down negative media and fix your image. Realistically, one or two months might not be enough.
Evaluate where you are and where you would like to be, and then set a realistic timeframe.
You’re now part of a small percentage of people who not only are aware of their online reputations, but who know how to improve it. With a better understanding of the potential impact of just one post, you’ll be able to navigate the online world with more security than before, thus keeping your image better maintained. That doesn’t mean it has to be all up to you, though.