Your Online Reputation -- Keep It Clean

In the age of social media, it’s not who you know that counts; it’s what the Internet knows about you that counts. What are you posting online? Does it show you in your best light?

Anyone's online reputation can be vulnerable to unflattering comments by strangers, friends, or former relationships. Business' online reputations can be vulnerable to disgruntled former employees and unhappy customers. Someone is going to look you up or your company online, whether it is a potential landlord or employer, or a potential banker or customer. A survey by ExecuNet found that 77% of recruiters use search engines for screening. But you can take matters into your own hands to keep your online reputation clean.


Discover Your Online Reputation

Search online under your name. Look on people search engines like Spock.com, Pipl.com, and Zoominfo.com. They "scrape" information from social networks and dump it into personal profiles.

Don't be your own worst enemy by spilling your life story or the latest dispute onto the Internet. Sometimes the written word doesn't express emotion well, so it is easy to be misunderstood or to misunderstand.

Create Positive Content

Don't be your own worst enemy by spilling your life story or the latest dispute onto the Internet. Sometimes the written word doesn't express emotion well, so it is easy to be misunderstood or to misunderstand. If your comments are taken in the wrong light, the fastest way to soothe the situation is to take the blame for any misunderstanding. If you keep your comments and posts fun, positive, and productive, you will be helping make the world--and the cyber world--a better place. If “digital dirt” is smudging your reputation, Google recommends pushing any offending content down by posting lots of positive content on your FacebookLinkedIn, Google+, and other accounts.

While working, assume that your boss (or the co-worker that wants your job!) is reading every word you write. Don't give anyone a reason to make you look bad. Your company should have a social media policy that lays out what type of online content is allowable and what is not. It should have a protocol for dealing with online comments from unhappy former employees or customers. A Facebook fan page and a LinkedIn company page provide additional locations for adding positive content to the Internet.

Search for your children’s names online. It is never too early for them to start building a positive online reputation. Warn them that eventually, prospective college recruiters, employers, and dating partners will be scouring the Internet to try to find out who they really are. Therefore, online comments should be clean, upbeat, and spelled accurately.

Protect Yourself

Go on the defensive and monitor your online reputation yourself. You can do this for free by creating a Google Alert on your name at www.Google.com/alerts. It emails you an alert whenever your name is mentioned online. If your name is common, include another identifying factor such as your job title or town in which you reside. Consider setting alerts for your children and your company, too.

There are more and more search engines and companies popping up to assist you in keeping your online rep clean. You can search online for free with a tool called “Me on the Web” that alerts you whenever your personal information appears online. If you want more help, Reputation Defender, reputation.com, has a low-cost monthly service that will scour the net to find what is being said about you and offers services to have things removed. BrandYourself.com has a free online tutorial on the basic steps of reputation management.

You can do some cleaning up on your own, too. Go through your Facebook and all of your other accounts and delete anything that is off-color, possibly offensive, or overly controversial. If someone posts a comment or picture that is damaging to your reputation, ask them to please remove it as soon as possible. Do this for your blog and any blogs that you post comments on. You can modify your privacy settings on your social media accounts, but never assume total confidentiality. For peace of mind, keep it simple by keeping it clean. If you have a blog or website that allows public comments, select the option to approve before publication. Don’t accept rude comments and respond to legitimate comments in a positive, upbeat tone.

Bottom line: Your reputation online matters. Take easy steps to monitor your online reputation and put your best image forward. It’s worth it!