Boy, am I glad I wasn’t raised in the social media era.
Kids today expose so much of their personal data and personal information on social media sites, that Google’s CEO recently suggested that they might have to change their names when they reach adulthood “to separate themselves from the Google record of their youthful indiscretions.”
What about the rest of us? Have we dodged this bullet if we graduated from high school before 1980? Or do we need to worry about how to improve online reputation, too?
Imagine, ten years from now . . .
In the internet future, your online reputation may represent the sum total of what others will think, say, and believe about you and your business. Social Media is being adopted by more than just the tweens. Major web content sites are merging – allowing them to connect your data on one site to your profile on another. Some say that future’s arriving sooner than any of us expected.
Let’s say someone who wants to hire you or buy products from you does a Google search for you ten years from now. What will they find on social media connected sites like Facebook, iTunes new Ping Network, and Twitter? What will they learn about you from web content portals like Youtube and Amazon reviews? What will define your online presence?
This future online reputation search can take our searcher down one of two paths:
Online Reputation Search Path One
On the first search page is a reunion site with a few harmless pictures of you from high school in the 80’s with unfortunate hair and braces.
Heck, everyone has bad high school pictures. Except maybe Brad Pitt.
And, there are a few more pictures someone has posted of you on social media sites like Facebook, or MySpace – photos you didn’t even know existed: you with your college buds playing drinking games, along with detailed written remembrances of your antics from friends you’d long ago forgotten.
And then there are those white papers you wrote and the web content published for a company you no longer work for, papers that don’t particularly reflect your personal values, or skills. Oh, and those hundreds of complaints filed in your name for another company you once worked for.
Imagine the story this searcher is writing about you? Does this future Google search accurately reflect you, your business, and your life?
Or, there’s search path two
Your searcher finds ten years worth of great articles you’ve written and placed all over the web, links to those articles from other blogs, and insightful, valuable comments you’ve left on other people’s blogs.
Oh, and on page 26 of this Google search, there are those pictures from high school, too.
Building Online Reputation
Many professionals know the importance of recommendations on sites like linkedin. In some industries, these recommendations are the first step in considering someone for a project.
And more and more, companies are going to the web to uncover “the truth” about future hires — you know, all the stuff they leave off the resume.
What’s more, increasingly, online is where resources are located and linked up.
A few examples:
I had a major publisher’s rep tell me that they prefer to sign new authors with an existing online presence and email list. They’re not buying the book as much as they are buying access to sell the book to a ready-made market.
Want a book deal? Grow your crowd online. (Or better yet, why go through a middleman? Produce and sell your own book!)
And, where do producers go when searching for expert guests on their programs? The web.
You might be surprised at the opportunities that come to bloggers with a strong online presence and brand. I’ve had clients called by major networks and newspapers based on a single blog entry.
Want to be on TV? Start building online reputation.
What if you don’t really care about publishers and producers?
Each of us will be searched for and found in this vast database “in the cloud.” We will exist online—whether we like it or not. Our future online reputation is being gathered and collated right now – through what others may post or write about us, from the sites of companies we work for, from blog comments we leave, from offhand twitter comments we make, and through our links to Facebook friends.
We either invest in our online reputations now, or take our chances and let others create a story for us.
Fortunately, there’s a lot more we can do to control our future on the web.
Four steps to taking control of your reputation online
Building online reputation is easier than fixing online reputation.
1. Establish your home base online.
Establish your home base now based on your most passionate interest. Begin building your online reputation with content posted on this home base. Post regularly to your blog or website on a topic you are passionate about.
Blog about topics you are passionate about, topics that enrich others lives. This is the strongest, most lasting reputation you can build – and the best way to improve online reputation that has been tarnished.
2. Use Web Content to Improve Online Reputation
The web revolves around great web content. Produce web content regularly, and post widely. Write for your blog, and guest post and comment on others blogs. Get articles placed on sites or article sites. And we’re not just talking about written content. Post YouTube videos or “vlogs,” and even podcasts, which can be linked to growing networks all over the web.
3. Take possession of your name in the major social media sites.
If you haven’t already, sign up for sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Linked-in. Take charge by carefully creating your personal profile on social media sites and populating them with information you want to share about yourself online. Be sure you understand the privacy and sharing rules of each site.
4. Replace it, because you can’t erase it.
Few of us are going to successfully remove potentially “negative” or embarrassing mentions of us online. This is our permanent public record. Some companies claim to remove public records that are incorrect, but good luck removing the original search engine link, even if the record is removed.
This public record can be even more damaging for companies. Google is indexing every snarky comment made about a company in the social networks. More companies are spending big dollars creating new content to move any damaging results down in the Google rankings.
And that’s the plan for individuals and small businesses too: The search engines want to show searchers the most relevant and current results, and they’ll get better at delivering on this promise.
So, the only way to dampen any confusion your Google past may create is to replace it with lots of fresh, regular content.
See you online!