Until very recently, only the people with access and influence, or some amount of luck were the ones that could take advantage of publishers and other contacts to help them promote their work and personal image. The same was true of television and print media, which were considered two of the most powerful tools because of their influence and ability to manipulate perceptions through content.
But, with the recent “democratization” of communication, linked with the development of the Internet and the emergence of a number of online tools and applications, the way companies and people interact, collaborate, communicate, play, work, share information, buy and sell products or services has changed. And that change is profound.
Nowadays, anyone with internet access and a willingness to be proactive and to put some passion into learning how these tools work is able to gain a voice, add visibility to the outside world and to create, share, distribute and publicize his or her own ideas, preferences, opinions, successes, experiences, and knowledge. At the same time, it became an alternate method for promoting who we are and to “influence” the way we want others to perceive us as individuals and as professionals.
It also facilitated the process of establishing informal relations and dialogues with people who we may or may not know, or who were once inapproachable owing to that fact that they were reserved or perhaps shrouded by influence games and secret contacts.
Because of the ultra-competitive world in which we live today, it became increasingly important for each of us to try to find and use creative ways to create buzz about ourselves, and that can help us to differentiate and stand out from the crowd and the competition while communicating those factors, qualities, characteristics that make us unique and valuable. Obviously, part of the solution lies in effectively managing and monitoring the online reputation for our own personal brand.
Simultaneously, we should also be careful and check whether the information that exists online and what others are saying about us is correct and represents a clear, positive and relevant image of who we really are. Especially when there is a greater likelihood that someone, such former colleagues, recruitment companies, friends, family, ex-boyfriends, teachers, consultants and others, would use Google to try to discover things about us.
Even when it continues to be impossible to fully control what others say about us, we can and should try to at least be better prepared to respond, minimize and possibly prevent the effects and confusion that might follow from misinformation. There is nothing worse than having incorrect, embarrassing or negative information associated with our name, particularly at a time when reputations can be created and destroyed online in less than seconds and at the speed of 140 characters.
For all this, I would like to ask you if you ever Googled your name between quotes on Google.com? If yes, did you like what you found? If you haven’t done this yet, what are you waiting for?
Make sure you do it and then read the 10 practical tips below on how to better manage your online reputation.
Contrary to what many people think, it’s no longer enough to simply create profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. You have to go a little further and complement this with other types of proactive and well structured tactics
1. Register your name: For less than $10 a year, it’s possible to reserve and register your name as an online domain through services such as GoDaddy.com; DomainsInSeconds.com; Joker.com; Registera.com; IWantMyName.com; Register.com; etc. Preferably select one that ends with.com or. net (or. co,. tv) since they are the ones that search engines respect most. If your name is quite common and is no longer available consider using your middle initial or a shorter version of your name or even an invented word that can be easily associated with your own brand. Thing about also buying a “hosting” service that lets you build a website where you can put up your credentials. Then make sure that you list your website or blog on relevant websites, search engines and directories such as technorati, blogcatalog and mybloglog
2. Build your own “window:” create a website or a blog that connects your online domain with your name using WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, BuddyPress, LiveJournal, Tumblr, etc. This will allow you to have a online location where you can not only write and share your ideas, stories, experiences, wisdom and knowledge on a particular subject, but also increase your credibility, reputation and authority with search engines, especially if your articles and comments start being shared by others in other social networks and thereby obtain “back links” (links that point and connect directly to your website). Be sure to include your name in the description and title of your blog, as well as relevant tags in the titles of your articles and remember that “ideas are worth nothing until other people know about them” – Bo Fishback
3. Become a member: create, claim and secure your brand name on several social networks that are highly indexed in Google. Make sure that you fill out your profile form completely to increase your visibility, even if you don’t become a very active member.
Start by examining “List_of_social_networking_websites” on Wikipedia to familiarize yourself with the many tools and social networks that are available. It’s essential that you devote time investigating how to highlight your brand. For example, the most important ones in Brazil are Orkut and Orca but in the United States the top are Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, and Portugal is the Hi5.
Then go to KnowEm.com or checkusernames.com – to learn in which popular social networks (there are currently over 400) your name is still available and to claim, reserve and protect it.
Facebook Username and fanpage – a social network that already has more than 50 million members worldwide and where it’s possible to use a multitude of applications associated with your personal profile. It also allows you to start creating our own and your preferences.
Twitter – a social network that offers a micro-blogging service where users are allowed to send, share and read messages known as “tweets” with a maximum of 140 characters. Users are also able to ask and answer questions and reply to comments.
LinkedIn – a business-oriented social network that’s mostly used for establishing contacts and for networking on a professional level.
Flickr – allows the integration and sharing of personal photos and videos that can be embedded in blogs or other social networks.
Google Profiles – a free service that makes personal profiles available on Google’s search engines and facilitates the control of some type of information that can appear associated with your name.
Digg – a social news website where users can discover and share content from anywhere on the Internet, by submitting links and stories, and at the same time, it offers the ability to vote and comment on those.
Hi5 – a social network where users can find, interact and stay in touch with friends while having fun with them.
MySpace – a social network that became quite popular in the United States in June 2006 and where users can meet friends/colleagues/new people, listen and create music playlists for free, share photos, watch videos, etc.
Naymz – a professional social networking platform that allows its users to relate with other professionals that belong to specific networks.
StumbleUpon – an online community that allows its members to discover, classify and recommend personalized Web pages, photos and video.
Friendfeed – a real time feeds aggregator that consolidates news, social networks, blogs & micro-blogging updates, and RSS feeds.
Ping.fm – a simple and free micro-blogging service that allows members to update content from/to their various social networks in the blink of an eye.
Tube Mongul – a free service that provides a single place to upload video to any of the major video sharing websites.
YouTube – a free service that lets you store, view, comment and share online video. Alternatively there are others like http://www.vimeo.com and Ustream.tv – http://www.Ustream.tv – a network of diverse channels providing a platform for video and online events.
Skype – a software that allows users to make voice calls, including video conferencing, over the Internet. Calls to other users inside the service are free, but, for example, calls to landlines can be made after paying a user fee.
eBay – a shopping website where people and businesses buy and sell a wide variety of products and services worldwide through an auction system.
Friendster – a social networking service that allows users to get in touch with other members while maintaining contacts and sharing content, including videos, photos, messages and comments.
Friendfeed – allows you to create a source of personalized content (articles, photos, etc.) that can be shared with friends.
Ning – an online platform that allows people to create their own social networks. The service can be tried for free during 30 days, but after that, a small monthly fee applies.
Include a short biographies about yourself on websites, such as Wikipedia.org; knol.Google.com/ke and Squidoo.com.
And since the first impression is always the one that everyone will have of you, make sure to:
– Fill out your profile completely and carefully on each social network
– Use a photograph that shows you in a professional and consistent way across all the social networks… don’t forget that “a picture still is worth a thousand words”.
– Include links and addresses from the major social networks in all contacts that you make, including on your email signature.
4. Get involved: Do not be online by just creating a simple online profile. It’s necessary to be involved and to participate in discussions in groups, fan pages, and forums that are related to your topics and interests by posting comments, answering questions, disseminating and sharing interesting content, establishing relationships, and interacting with others.
All of these activities are necessary and can help us get the attention of our target audience and make them interested in getting connected and interacting with us. If this happens, the likelihood of being followed and the probability of seeing our views and messages being broadcasted beyond our own network of contacts (networking) will gradually increase.
The secret also involves being excellent storytellers – someone who is interesting and is able to inspire, motivate and capture the attention, heart, mind and interest of others. We should try to offer something for free that can bring added value. Use titles or subjects in our own blogs or from other websites for reference that are relevant, innovative, and controversial.
Consider writing books and opinion articles for magazines, blogs, newsletters or influential websites on current or relevant topics for your target audience. And then, spread those via links to your own website or blog.
Also, try to be quoted in specialty articles and consider providing consultancy services.
Prepare a PowerPoint presentation on a specific topic and try to book yourself into seminars, conferences, television programs and other events where you can be a guest speaker. Make yourself available to answer questions and talk about your own views and experiences. Equate to make that same presentation available on websites like slideshare.com since, according to Gary Vaynerchuck, every conversation that you start is another opportunity to talk about your passions.
5. Monitor: Learn to read (between the lines), listen, and observe what others are saying about you, your personal brand, and the issues that are relevant to you. Try to identify which blogs, forums and personalities are the most important in a particular field and/or deserve to be followed. This type of monitoring allows us to become better informed about new trends, potential threats and better prepared to respond, innovate, adjust, change and adapt to new realities and situations if necessary. Here are some tools that can help:
– Google alerts – allows the creation of email alerts for your choice of query or topic and based on the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.). It is advisable to create alerts for your own name, your website/blog, your “competitors” and the topics that are relevant to you.
– Google reader – is a service that lets you add and access content from your favorite websites in one place.
– Search.twitter.com – allows you to see what is happening or being said in real time on the topic that you want search about – consider using it for your own name/brand.
– Backtype.com – is a social analysis platform that helps companies better understand their social impact, and provides warnings when a specific name is mentioned on blogs’ comments.
– Socialmention.com – is a real time search engine for all social networks user-generated content: blogs, comments, bookmarks, events, news, videos, etc.
– Boardtracker.com – provides notifications when a specific name or topic appears mentioned in discussions, in forums and IMs alerts. Cost: 39 USD per month but the first 30 days are free.
– Blogsearch.google.com – is a technology that helps the user search and explore the blogging universe more effectively in order to discover what is being said about any subject of interest.
– Tweetbackup – is a tool that allows to free up our twitter account. They recently started offering a monthly premium subscription for $1/month.
– Collecta.com – is a real time search engine time that includes results from blogs, micro blogs, news feeds and photo sharing services on a particular topic, name or website.
And if you ever need to provide or analyze statistical data on your website or audiences from other sites, use compete.com; alexa.com; pagerank.net; quantcast.com and googlerankings.com
6. Be real: behave online just as you do every day. Act with good manners, respect, professionalism, honesty, friendliness, consistency, dedication, adaptability, reciprocity, etc. Be a leader by being authentic and by showing that you care, respect, and are interested in learning more about the opinions, ideas, values, dreams, vision of others. That way you will be able to capture their interest and their willingness to interact with your own brand.
7. Be careful: do not put anything online that you would not want your mother to see about you or your brand. Remember that Google never forgets and it’s virtually impossible to remove content from it. Therefore, think and be careful with the words and the comments you post online. One day, you might regret having done it. Also, be cautious with those you meet and talk to online. Try to disassociate yourself from any person that may have a negative impact on your image. Clean up your profile from spammers and questionable websites – and don’t take sides in heated discussions, unless you are prepared to defend your position today or even tomorrow. Finally, review the privacy settings of each of the social networks you use so that you can stay in control of the public information that appears with your online profile. Example: use the application PrivacyDefender for a graphic image of the type of information to share online.
8. Take action – follow the maxim of not leaving for tomorrow what you can and should be doing today. Don’t forget that the way we act in relation to situations makes a big difference, especially if it is a less desirable situation. For example, when one makes a comment that is misinterpreted, the best thing to do is to act immediately and clarify the situation. Don’t forget what happened recently with BP CEO’s comments that created a mini-crisis for that company that has been considered by many a study case in PR.
If there is less worthy content, try to use the “rule of thumb” to remove those. An alternative is to directly contact the author of the blog or website and ask to have the information corrected (example: Correction: we got confirmation that xx was not fired but fired up to take on new roles as the zz at company zz).
9. Plan – Establish, in your daily life, a time to read, participate, comment that can help others remember you and your name/brand. Make time for your desired objectives and list ways to achieve them. Invest in consistent messaging and relevant content that is updated regularly. Never stop trying to evolve and improve what you do and know (even when you succeed). Don’t let success blind you, and be willing to continue to strive to improve and to try new things.
10. Do not give up – Be patient and persistent because these steps require commitment, dedication, and it takes time to get the desired results. Be prepared to repeat all these tips over and over again and as often as needed.
But sooner or latter, you will see that your effort will be rewarded. All you need to do is to simply live up to your passion and do what you believe in. Start managing your reputation today, dare to risk, and be prepared because you might be contacted by someone out of the blue. It happened to me already and it will happen to you. (Just let me know when.)