Online reputation management (ORM) is more important than ever in 2018. Damaging online content can make it difficult to build a career or qualify for an important position. HR recruiters in almost every field routinely Google job applicants as part of the interview process, and 75 percent say they’ve dismissed a candidate based on what they find. Even a simple lack of presence online can make an employer question whether your CV is accurate.
A poor online reputation doesn’t just impact your career. Today more and more long-term relationships start on the internet; even if you go out with someone you’ve met a few times in person, they’re likely to Google you before a first date. What you post, like, or share says a lot about who you are. It can pique interest or lead to a hasty last minute change of plans.
ORM is no longer a luxury for people with extra time and money. What the internet says about you can make the difference between a successful life and one that leaves you wishing you’d made different choices. Curating a positive online profile has become almost as important as maintaining good personal hygiene. If others find your virtual personae unattractive, it will be hard to make connections and build relationships.
Unfortunately, many people still struggle with online content that’s negative or simply doesn’t convey the image they want to present. According to a report from BrandYourself.com in the US, three quarters of respondents regularly Google themselves, but, of these, almost 50 percent don’t like what they see.
If you’re one of these people, make 2018 the year you get control of your online reputation with these 20 tips.
- Vanity Check – Run a Google search of your full name (if you haven’t already) and evaluate what you find. Remember, 93 percent of searchers don’t go past the first page, so focus on the first 10 or so results. Is there negative or irrelevant content? Does the material that’s about you enhance or detract from your image? Don’t forget to check the search results for nicknames, variations, or misspellings of your name as well.
- Personal Branding and Strategic Planning – Unless you’ve already put a lot of time into ORM, the chances are you weren’t satisfied with the results of your Google search. It’s time to design a new image, one that will reflect your own personal brand. Think about who will be Googling you and what you want them to see. Make a list of the positive traits you wish to project. Are you a daring entrepreneur, an experienced manager or an innovator in your field? Include aspects of your personal life (such as family or hobbies) that you are comfortable sharing publicly.
- Start and Engage in Social Media – Claim your social media profiles on all the major sites - Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+ and any others particularly relevant to your field. Design these pages so they reflect your personal brand. Add a recent picture and a professional bio that highlights your most important accomplishments. If you already have old accounts on these sites, you will need to clean them up and delete material that doesn’t fit with your new image.
- Create a Blog – Whether or not you think of yourself as a blogger, this is an ideal way to build an online reputation. Design a blog that fits with the personal brand you just created and brainstorm a title and a list of topic ideas. Focus on subjects that will highlight your professional experience and knowledge.
- Grab Your Online Real-Estate – If you don’t claim your domain name online, someone else will, and they can use it to damage your reputation or create irrelevant results. Purchase the .co.uk, the .com and/or the .net version of your name, if at all possible, and use this address as your blog URL. This is an ideal way to add authenticity to your posts. If you have a business, you’ll also need to control the domain name for your business.
- Commit to a Posting Schedule – With a blog and several new social media profiles, it can be hard to keep up. Make an achievable posting schedule and commit to keeping all your pages up to date with fresh, professional material.
- Police and Monitor Comments – Once you start blogging, you’re bound to receive feedback and not all of it will be good. Choose to screen comments if possible. If not, respond appropriately to positive comments and reasonable criticism. Don’t interact with anyone who posts profanity or is obviously trolling you.
- Don’t Engage in Arguments Online – If a comment makes you upset, give yourself time to calm down and post a mature response you won’t be ashamed of later. Don’t share your first emotional reaction and don’t argue with people who clearly don’t want to listen to your viewpoint. This can easily create a viral thread that will detract from your reputation rather than improving it.
- Audit and Remove Irrelevant and Historical Media and Content – Old posts or images shared from your teenage and college years aren’t going to help you project a competent adult image. Delete everything you’ve posted previously that doesn’t fit with your personal brand. If others have shared or copied your posts, this can mean tracking down the website hosting the content and requesting removal.
- Look at Your Past Trends (Likes and Share) – Take a look at articles you’ve liked or shared in the past. Remember these responses are publicly available and they can say as much about you as content you write yourself. Delete any unprofessional likes and shares from the past and make sure future trends fit with your new image.
- Have an Opinion but Fact Check Too – It’s okay to have an opinion. Employers don’t want to hire someone who can’t think for themselves. However, make sure you do some research before you share a personal viewpoint, especially one that could be controversial. If you take the time to get your facts right and show you’ve carefully considered the topic, people will respect what you have to say even if they don’t agree with you.
- Separate Professional and Personal – You don’t want a future employer or a first date scrolling through photos posted by your grandmother. It’s important to keep your new professional profiles separate from your personal social media accounts. If you don’t want to delete an old account, hide it under a pseudonym or a nickname only friends and family know. Be careful to keep your professional and personal contacts separate. Never friend co-workers or colleagues through your personal account.
- Update Privacy – Use the strongest privacy settings on your personal accounts so only friends can see what you post. If you commit to keeping compromising material off your professional pages, they can stay fully public. Professional social media profiles are an important social recruiting tool that can help you build your reputation and your career.
- Become a Thought Leader – Post regularly on professional topics in which you have a lot of expertise. As more people share and repost your blog, you’ll start to become an industry influencer; it will be easier to attract new followers and your reputation will start to gain momentum.
- Post Positive Publicity – Share any positive publicity that you receive, either personally or through your business. To attract more of this type of publicity, get your name out there with both online and offline networking. Attend conferences, interact with colleagues, plan events, volunteer, or become active with a charity.
- Google Alerts, Monitor Your Mentions – Be aware that the more public your personae becomes, the more likely you are to attract negative commentary online. Set up a Google alert, or use more sophisticated software to monitor mentions throughout the internet. Responding quickly and appropriately to negative material can help keep the damage to a minimum.
- Address Negativity When Necessary – Negative comments can appear threatening, but an honest, well-written response will often show you can take criticism and this will improve your reputation in the long term. On the other hand, a poor response can blow up in your face and create a much bigger issue than one critical comment. It’s a good idea to run over the pros and cons with a professional ORM firm if the situation appears delicate or there are potential legal issues.
- Be Transparent – This is easier said than done, but it’s important that customers or online followers believe you are being honest and open. If you made an error, or a customer had a bad experience, it’s best to admit fault and apologise. Explain what happened as truthfully as possible, but don’t make excuses or blame specific members of your team. Offer solutions for avoiding these types of issues in the future.
- Set Realistic Goals – Remember that ORM doesn’t happen overnight. It will take time for your content to gain enough ranking with Google to appear on page one of a search. Think in terms of months, not days or weeks. Set a realistic timeframe and evaluate your progress at regular intervals.
- Speak to US – If you want a really strong online reputation, you will need to control all the results on the first page of a Google search for your name. This is almost impossible without a professional ORM team, so don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. Contact Reputation Defender to learn how our reputation specialists can help you create the online image you want.
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