One of the less redeeming characteristics of the general population is that we’re relatively gullible– constantly taking things at face value and believing its truth too quickly. For example, there are always posts on Facebook that have headlines like: “Beyoncé wants this picture off the internet. See it. Share it.” And I’m like: “Wow, what a truly terrible picture of Beyoncé, no wonder she tried to bury it.” And in a world where the next interesting post is just a few swipes down, there is no time to really ponder that simple, unimportant statement. If I could just keep my attention on that worthless post for five more seconds, my follow up thought would probably be: “Wait a minute. Beyoncé has been in the public eye since at least 1998. She’s been through the 90s and the early 2000s. There’s no way out of all the terrible outfits, unfortunate shots, sneaky paparazzi pictures and stills from movies and music videos that she’s all of a sudden using her precious time in her busy life to spend more than half a thought caring about a single image from her jaw-dropping impressive performance.” In reality, it shouldn’t matter if she did or did not want that picture to go away. It was just a bad picture and for someone of Beyoncé’s status, it doesn’t matter for more than a day or week at most because there are millions of other pictures of her out there that people are posting and pushing around and she isn’t going to get “fired” from being one of the most popular celebrities in the US.

But what if it wasn’t Beyoncé? What if it was someone from your hometown? That someone you actually know gets something that goes viral seems unlikely, but it happens. And normal people don’t have artillery of millions of other pictures to eventually suppress or at least muffle that one terrible picture. There are normal people out there getting defined by one moment–one situation–that gets picked up and blasted on the Internet –an ever-changing but everlasting entity that has the power to dictate how people are perceived whether you know them or not with a simple inquiry into their name.

Unfortunately for most people, reputation management only seems necessary when they have a serious crisis at hand. That’s almost always because it is hard to foresee yourself or your business in a situation that will draw media attention. And it is even more difficult to foresee something going viral on a national level. Old mug shots or legal documents still populate someone’s search results even if the charges were dropped or dismissed. They can even show up on your first page of results if you aren’t mentioned in more recent press or if you don’t maintain an active presence online through social media. Bad search results can instantly affect someone’s judgment of you and compromise their decisions to do business with you or hire you for a job. Especially if they are gullible and all they do is see the headline, make a snap judgment and move on as most people do these days when browsing the web. Even if it’s old and outdated, you could lose your job over an image, video, or article that paints you in a negative light if seen by the wrong person.

Don’t let your reputation be ruined by failing to see the purpose of maintaining it before you have an obvious crisis. Contact Status Labs today to talk about your online reputation and how to effectively manage it.