Guest post by Marquita Herald.
For most people the term “reputation management” brings to mind the need for damage control, which is why actively managing online reputation is not usually top of mind for a busy entrepreneur … until a problem pops up.
But managing your reputation is about more than fixing problems, it’s also about managing your brand, and these days reputation is defined by online content and how you are perceived by your connections can have tremendous effect on your business.
Reputation, much like a brand, is nothing more than a perception, so how your name appears when you are Googled, in the articles you write, comments you leave on blogs, displayed on Facebook or in a tweet is the new reality and – for better or worse – others will add their own opinions along the way, which contributes to your reputation.
Assessing Your Online Reputation
To evaluate your current online reputation start with a simple search of your name on Google – both web and images. Be sure to search all variations of your name, for example if you’ve ever used a nickname or changed your name.
If you’ve been online for any length of time you may find tens of thousands of hits, but most search engine users won’t look past the first page or two of search results, so unless you immediately find something that concerns you, you only need to look at a few pages. But do keep in mind that if you come across someone with a name very similar to yours it’s a good idea to take a closer look in the off chance that being mistaken for you might cause your reputation or brand to be damaged.
If you find information about yourself that does not fit the reputation you want, act quickly. The longer it stays public, the greater the chance that it will be spread or archived.
Strategies to Take Charge of Your Reputation
There are a few basic tenets when it comes to taking charge of your online reputation. Most of these you already know, but it can’t hurt to do a quick review.
- Take charge of what shows up on social networks: Privacy settings are there to protect you so take the time to customize them to ensure that you control who gets to see what on your profiles. If someone posts content or a picture of you that you find embarrassing or potentially damaging to your brand, don’t hesitate to ask them to take it down.
- Optimize your online presence: Complete social media and professional profiles and take advantage of options to customize your presence. For instance, did you know that on LinkedIn you can scroll down to where it says “public profile” on your profile page to customize your URL?
- Keep private things private, while assuming nothing is ever truly private: Pretty much says it all. Anytime you’re tempted to post something online you wouldn’t want your customers or clients to see, think of all the celebrity types who have learned the hard way that nothing on the Internet is ever truly private.
- Think about the comments you leave on blogs: When trying to squeeze blog commenting into an already busy schedule it can be tempting to skim the article and fire off just enough of a comment to get by and move on. But bear in mind that even simple blog comments contribute to your brand and reputation because your comment says as much about you as it does the article.
Handy Tools to Help You Monitor Your Reputation
While reputation management has become big business, most people don’t need to invest heavily in professional services because there are a number of effective tools you can use to automate the process of managing your online reputation. Following are just a few of my favorites.
- Google Alert: Set up Google Alerts for your name, business name and any products you want to keep track of any new content. You can have notifications emailed to you once a day to avoid overwhelming your inbox.
- Me on the Web: Google has a nice tool that allows you to easily monitor search results for your name. Me on the Web is included in your Google Dashboard. It allows you set up search monitors for your name/brand and can assist you in the removal of unwanted content.
- Social Mention: Social Mention is a free tool similar to Google Alerts, but tailored to social media and monitors over 70 social media properties and includes an evaluation of your activity based on strength, sentiment, passion and reach. You can subscribe to the feed and set up email alerts.
- Namecheck: With one click using this free tool you can check for everything from usernames in social media to domain names and even trademarks to discover where that name is registered across multiple social media sites. Namecheck automatically sifts through 12 of the top services to see if the name is taken or available.
- BoardReader: BoardReader is a free search tool that tracks conversations across forums and message boards. You can refine results by date, from a particular domain and by relevance.
The bottom line is you really need to become aware of your online reputation and have so much good information out there about yourself that no negative news can ever block it out.
What tools do you use to manage your online reputation? Have you had any positive or negative experiences you’d be willing to share?