The funny thing about online reputation is that it exists in some form, with or without your help.
This is a subject primarily of interest to small business owners and entrepreneurs, but with the rise in employers using the Internet for background checks and similar queries, online reputation issues affect everyone.
There are four main keys to getting and controlling your online reputation. The first two pertain to how to get control, and the remaining two deal with how to keep it once you’ve gotten it.
1. Create Websites and Social Networking Profiles
Ultimately, the rule of thumb in online reputation is that your voice needs to be the loudest. That means that most – if not all – of the easily accessible information about you needs to originate from you.
Fortunately, this is very easy to do. It’s simple and fast to create a website that is complemented by a blog. It’s also simple and fast to create a set of social networking profiles on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, or Foursquare. The social networking profiles not only help increase traffic and authority to the main website/blog, but they show up in search engine results when people search for you – helping you get control of what people know about you online.
When creating websites and profiles, think long-term and be consistent. When it comes to reputation management, keep in mind that most information you publish online has permanence. You cannot control who can reproduce it or store it for themselves, so publish carefully.
2. Keep Profiles Updated Frequently
The only caveat to creating profiles online – including sites like YouTube, Google, HubPages, Ezine Articles, etc. – is that it’s crucial to keep them up-to-date. Out of date profiles seem to knowingly float their way to the top of search engines, or worse, into articles that other people write about you. If you keep your profiles family-and-employer friendly and up to date, perhaps using the same one or two everywhere, the information about you that people access frequently will stay fresh.
While an out of date profile doesn’t necessarily tarnish a reputation, it can be a signal that the information about you that is accessible to others is difficult to manage. You can get control of this by creating profiles that have concise, clear information about you that is very unlikely to change.
3. Stay On Top of New Info About You
When you search for yourself online, make a note of what results come up. If you find information about yourself on websites that you do not approve of, you can contact the webmasters of those sites to find out how you can change or remove the information. Also, if you find information that is untrue and damaging, you may be able to contact law enforcement, since libel is a serious offense in most jurisdictions.
There are several tools to help you stay on top of new information published about you. My personal favorite is Google Alerts, which allows you to set up notifications that email you when your name comes up in a new/updated web page or site.There are several ways to configure the notifications, but the bottom line is that it’s a great way to keep up with new information about you. You can create alerts for your name, your address, your business name, etc.
You can and should also keep track of Twitter and Facebook, and if you’re a local business, keep track of Foursquare and Yelp as well.
4. Address Problems Right Away
When/if your reputation online is challenged or compromised, use blogging and social networking to set the record straight publicly. Bringing issues out in the open communicates to people that you are aware of what is being said about you, and being public about issues provides a means of getting the right information out there. This eliminates confusion, while at the same, opening lines of communication.
Blogging is the preferred method of communicating during these situations, so it’s essential that you have a blog where people can subscribe to and communicate with you. Your blog will become a focal point for your online reputation management.
Social networks, especially LinkedIn and Twitter which are completely open to the public (as opposed to Facebook, which you can set to private), are additional focal points for online reputation management. Promote blog posts that you publish via those networks and quickly address any questions or replies you get from people in your circle of influence.
The sooner you can take control of your online reputation, the easier it will be to manage it. Just keep in mind that when you are in control of the information being published about you, you will have little to worry about. Strive to drive the conversation, as that is the best way to keep it under your control.
This guest post is written by Lior Levin, a marketing consultant for an inspection company that provides services in pre shipment inspection in China and in Latin America, and who also consults for a company that provides a productivity to do list app for businesses and individuals.