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A Personal Perspective on Online Reputation Management
As we spend more and more time online, most people have wondered about their online reputation. We simply do a Google search of our own name and see what pops up. Let me ask you a question. Are you happy with the results? Some people will take this search as a joke but businesses take it very seriously. We've all heard stories where someone called their boss an "idiot" on Myspace and got fired. Big companies call this "Online Reputation Management".
In the grand scheme of things, Online Reputation Management (ORM) is a fancy word for "damage control" for big companies. With the emergence of web 2.0, normal people have gained control of social media and bad press is able to travel fast. Wendy's lost millions of dollars when a story broke out that there was a mouse in their famous chili. This later turned out to be a hoax but the fast food company didn't take it lightly. This hoax did unmeasurable damage to their reputation. Seeing the potential for disaster, corporations stepped in and expanded their public relations department into the world wide web to prevent such disasters. Fortunately we still have control and we can shape what ORM means for us. Lets look at ORM from a personal perspective.
I'm sure you have Googled yourself before. If you haven't, be sure to take a minute and see what shows up. Let's visit that question again. Are you happy with the results? This is what other people will find when they Google your name. This is your online reputation. Most people are not aware but if someone wants to find information about you, the easiest and most effective way is a search engine. That may sound a bit creepy but it's a reality some of you will have to face sooner or later. Imagine applying for an important job. While most jobs will make phone calls to your previous employer, in this day and age, don't be surprised if this potential employer navigates to Google and finds that you smoke weed and get high on weekends from your Myspace page. Whether this information is relevant or not, is this something you really want a potential employer to see? We can see the importance of privacy in this example but my goal is not to scare you. My goal is to empower you.
Every one of us has had this experience. We make a pseudonym to hide ourselves. We troll message boards or chat rooms. We do things we wouldn't normally do in public. Some of use engage in racist arguments, some of us swear. One thing is common, all of us are assholes when we are anonymous online.
How can you blame us? We can't take any blame or responsibilities because we don't have a face online. You do not know my name and you don't know where I live. Well, what if you have no anonymity? How would you "act" online? Things would change fast. Imagine your mother or grandmother Googling your name only to see you cursing n-bombs and disrespecting women. You'd get your act together quick!
Empower and Contribute
Look at the top right of my page. There is a picture there. That's me. I put my picture up online. Now there's a face behind these words. Now I have to be careful about what I write. I don't have to be if I don't want to. I can be bold and powerful. It's now up to me how I want to build my online reputation. I can be negative and hateful or I can be positive and helpful. I've chosen to contribute and help people with my words. It's much harder to be an idiot when your face is on the line. When your name is on the line. We all have to come out of the shadows at some point. If I want to make money, it sure helps if my customer sees my face. Likewise, if I speak from the shadows, you won't listen.
As we spend more time online, we build a reputation for ourselves. We must protect it. Protecting our reputations takes work but once the threat is thwarted, we can enjoy our own status.
For example, The Swiss have a reputation of building and making high quality precision watches and tools. A multi-tool company called Victorinox has developed such a reputation for quality that their multi-tools sell themselves. They also contribute to the "Swiss made" reputation many of us know about. We can build reputation online as well.
We let our reputation work for us. Many people describe this as "web presence" or "authority". As we continue to build our online reputation, we will gain recognition. It's important to build a positive reputation. By building a positive reputation, we expand our network with positive people. With a high web presence, we can influence many people. No longer will we fear grandma Googling our names to see wild drinking parties. The results are measured by success. I'll leave it up to you on how you measure success. Some of us measure success in money, influence, friends, whatever. However you measure success, building positive online reputation is key in this digital world.
Easy Ways to Build Online Reputation
There are no rules in ORM. However, there are principles I like to follow. Here are some easy things you can do to build positive online reputation.
- Show your face. People trust other people. There are lots of spam on the web and if you can show from the get-go that you are a real person and not a bot, you automatically build trust and people will listen to you. People tend to value other people's opinions. Show them you are a real person!
- Always be friendly. Remember, you are the salesman. Whether you are selling an idea or goods. If you are an author, you exist because people read your work. Always be conscious of this. This doesn't mean be fake. Just be respectful and considerate. I try my best to be friendly and I am always thankful when people take the time to read my articles. By the way, thank you! :)
- Big brother is watching. I don't mean to sound paranoid but nearly everything you post online gets archived. The Wayback Machine is a small example of this. Google saves the whole know entire web. Just be careful of that one night you were drinking and decided to go on a rampage blogging spree. Privacy policies mean nothing once the company goes bankrupt. The first people in line to buy all that information are marketers and insurance companies. Just be aware of what you write online.
- Get to the point fast. High school writing have failed us. Real people don't want to hear flowery words. Real people want information now. People that are honest and to the point are highly valuable online. Most people use the Internet to save time. They do not want to read through a paragraph of text to get what a sentence could've accomplished. Never say more than what is necessary. The more you say, the more common you appear. This is the equivalent of a real conversation where someone says, "uhhhhhh..." or "Ummmm....." People say these to fill in voids, space, and time. This isn't high school where you have to write a minimum of 500 words and 2 pages. Use contractions. They save time and space. You're not speaking to a professor. You are speaking to a person. Get personal and cut to the chase.
- Be helpful with your writing. People read your articles because you have done or experienced something they haven't. If you are writing a review, be honest. No one likes to get ripped off. If you don't like something about a product, say it. If you are writing a how to guide, always give tips. People love tips. Just be helpful. You get tons of information from the Internet that have saved you lots of hours. Give back and help someone else. Build a positive online reputation. Plus, it just feels good to know your writing has helped others.
- Always aim to accomplish something. So many people write, blog, or tweet about useless information. You can't imagine how common people tweet about going to the bathroom. Not only is that disgusting, but no one needs to know that. Never write about useless information. People that write like this build a bad online reputation. Always aim to accomplish something. Aim to inform, help, or answer a question. We're looking at the big picture here. Do you really want Google to index your tweet on how you've had a rough time in the bathroom today? Always set a goal when writing something online.
As Online Reputation Management become increasingly important, we must plan ahead. It may sound trivial today, but so much have changed on the Internet in this last decade. We are now able to shop, connect with people, find jobs, find information, dates, videos, and countless other things. This includes finding ourselves. Do you like what you find? I hope my article gave you a personal perspective on online reputation. I've enjoyed writing this. Thank you for reading and be sure to leave a comment on your way out!