Personal Branding is all about self-packaging or self-promotion. In the online context it is about generating a distinguished Web presence of a person on the Internet.
We’ve all “Googled” our names (known as the vanity search) to see “what’s out there” on the world wide web about ourselves. You may just be curious or you may be actively monitoring your online reputation. You may wish to control the impressions other people form about you from what they read on the Web or you may be trying to actively bury a negative story.
Whenever a story goes “viral” on the web we are reminded that the way a business or an individual is represented on the Web can have a profound influence on their reputation and success. My kids and their peers are growing up as very active participants of the social web. Will what they post to the web in their teen years potentially stay with them for the rest of their lives? Even the most web-savvy teen isn’t thinking that everything they post has the potential to stay up in the cloud indefinitely creating a permanent online record.
We know that potential employers will “Google” job applicants. If you manage your online presence you can ensure that you have control over the information they find. The good news is that if they find relevant worthwhile content on the first SERP they aren’t likely to go to subsequent pages.
How to manage your online reputation:
- Get your url – If you want to have control over the top search results for your name own your personal domain. Having a personal domain name is going to become more and more valuable. A domain that is yourname.com will rise to the top of results when your name is searched. I gave my kids their own personal .com domains for Christmas this past year.
- Realize that the web is a public sphere; think about your online reputation when you are interacting online; ensure that you are acting responsibly at all times. A good rule of thumb is not to post pictures or comments online that you wouldn’t want your mother, your future child, or your future employer to see.
- Protect your privacy. Reputation management is about both controlling what is published about you and keeping private personal information that you don’t want made public. Don’t publish your date of birth and other identifying information. Ensure that the answers to your security questions aren’t available online.
- Keep your business and personal social networking profiles separate. Use privacy settings for your personal profiles and only accept friendship requests from people you actually know, trust, and are comfortable sharing with.
- Use a pseudonym. If your online activity would reflect poorly on your personal brand consider having two separate identities online. Use a pseudonym so your rude or naughty alter ego can comment, use message forums and other public social networking sites without impacting on your personal reputation. Ensure that this pseudonym can not be connected to your real name.
- Set up social networking profiles for your name/brand and ensure that the content of these profiles is professional and respectful at all times (Twitter, a Facebook business fan page, LinkedIn, Digg, Flickr, YouTube, Wikipedia, etc.). You want these results to rise to the top in the searches so use them as tools for positive self-promotion.
- Set up a Google alert to receive email notification of online mentions of your name/brand.
- End it all… if your online reputation has become a real problem you may want to consider deleting all your social networking accounts using the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine.
Do you think about your online reputation when you are interacting online? Please add your comments.