You are a brand. Your online behavior, including content you choose to share online, creates an image of who you are and what is important to you. It is that plain and simple. How you represent yourself online gives other people information, good or bad, to evaluate who you are. This is especially true if you own a business or hoping to be employed with a regular paycheck at some point in your future.
The great news is, your online image is within your control! If you are like 99.9% of us who are not celebrities, politicians or professional athletes, I do not want to hear you cannot control what is posted about you. Sure you can! Don’t you remember Forrest Gump’s mom saying, “Stupid is as stupid does?” She was right, of course, so we can get that issue off the table. We’ll address negative reviews of a business in a different post.
Here are things you can do to manage your online reputation now:
- On occasion, Google yourself. If you are new to the world of receiving a regular paycheck, yes, your potential employers WILL Google you. Drill that deep into your long-term memory. For the rest of us, it’s good to do a status check once in a while.
- Do not do dumb things in public where everyone and their dogs can start snapping away with their smart phones. You know exactly where those photos will end up – the internet is forever, my friend, for-ever.
- Lock down your Facebook personal profile and other social media profiles that have this option. Know what is public and what isn’t.
- Refrain from political, religious or socially contentious conversations online. Remember, the internet is forever.
- If you wouldn’t say it or do it in front of Matt Lauer on the Today Show, for goodness sake, don’t post it online.
- Get a decent, professional appearing photo for your social media profiles. No, the one with your BFF in Cabo doesn’t count. And please, no selfies.
- Develop a short written summary about you – the brand of you – for your social media profiles. You need an elevator pitch. What are your strengths, goals, passions, etc.? You are in control of the message about you.
- Keep your online behavior consistent with your online identity. Employers want to see you walk the talk and it will help you make the right connections online.
- Start a blog. It’s free and yes, everyone can write. You don’t have to be a Dave Eggers to blog. Blogging just takes discipline and practice.
- Get in the know about Google Authorship. Read about it and then link your G+ profile to your blog. You’ll look back and see this was a smart move. Trust us.
- Address negativity. If someone posts a negative comment about a blog post, tweet, post – what have you – do not ignore it. Get out in front of it and reply with compassion, empathy or offer a solution. Humor is great too, if appropriate.
I never like to stick with a list of 5 or 10. Yawn. Seriously though, grab your online reputation by the horns and stay in control of it. It is not difficult to do, but it is oh so important to maintain a positive online reputation – you are the brand of you and that stuff on the internet? It tends to stick around, for-ever.