Resolution #6: Guard Your Online Reputation

This is one of a series of articles with suggested resolutions for the new year. See the other suggested resolutions.

In today’s wired world, it is important to consider your online reputation. When I interview people who apply for jobs, I always look at their profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Pinterest. I look at what a candidate writes, what kind of pictures they post, and what kind of posts and photos they like and share. This can reveal a lot about a person’s character and personality.

I have worked with Fortune 500 companies and businessmen who take great care to manage their brands and their personal reputations. But everyone should be concerned about their online presence and what it says about them. For example, if you post your testimony online, will others take it seriously in the context of everything else you do online?

Managing your online reputation is important for both adults and kids. Some colleges check the web to learn about applicants. 70% of companies have rejected candidates based on their online reputation. Teach your children that what they write and post today—both good and bad—can be seen by millions of people across the world in an instant and they can remain accessible for the rest of their lives.

Assess your online reputation

These tips can help you find out what information is on the Internet about you and help you see the impression it leaves on people:

  • Search your name. Begin by typing your first and last name into several popular search engines to see where you are mentioned and in what context. To get more precise results, put quotation marks around your name, so that the search engine reads your name as a phrase and not as two or more unrelated words that just happen to appear in the text. Search your name with and without a middle initial or name. Try your maiden name and all spelling variations. If you find other people who share your name, you can eliminate many false hits by using keywords. You can add keywords that apply only to you, such as your city, your employer, or your industry.
  • Search for information about you. Use similar techniques to search for your telephone numbers, home address, e-mail addresses, and personal website domain names. You should also search for your social security and credit card numbers to make sure they don’t appear anywhere online.
  • Target specific sites. Check online phone directories, genealogy sites, alumni sites, the websites of organizations to which you belong or donate time or money, and other sites that compile personal, professional, or contact information about people.
  • Read blogs. If any of your friends, family members, or coworkers have blogs or personal web pages on social networking sites, check them to see if they are writing about you or posting pictures of you.
  • Sign up for alerts. Set up a Google Alert for your name so you are notified whenever something new appears online about you.

Protect your online reputation

These tips can help you manage and protect your online reputation:

  • Safeguard your personal information. Reduce the chance of  identity theft and online fraud by keeping your personal information private when you go online. Be equally careful about sharing information offline and be sure you know how organizations will use your information before you give it to them.
  • Use privacy settings. Most social networking and photo-sharing sites allow you to determine who can access and respond to your content. But don’t assume these controls are foolproof. If something is truly private, don’t post it on social media.
  • Don’t mix your public and private lives online. Use different e-mail addresses and accounts for different online activities to help keep your public and private lives separate.
  • Choose your photos thoughtfully. Whether you’re a child or an adult, make sure potential colleges or employers can’t access photos that make you look irresponsible.
  • Watch your language and content. Always assume that anyone can read anything you’ve written online.
  • Take action. If you find information about yourself online that is unflattering, embarrassing, or untrue, contact the website owner or administrator and ask them to remove it. Most sites have policies to deal with such requests.
  • Be active in social media. Have accounts on the major social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Pinterest and post content that you can be proud of.
  • Share your expertise. Show off your expertise by writing a blog and contributing guest articles to blogs and websites that are relevant to your industry.
  • Create an identity hub. Make a hub that links to all of your content. Claim a domain name (URL) with your name and post your resume and links to your blogs, social media accounts, and other information about you online. Create a Google profile and a profile at About.me and optimize it. Search engines like fresh content, so update these pages often.

Some of the suggestions in this article were adapted from “Take Charge of Your Online Reputation” on Microsoft.com.

 

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