How to Manage Your Reputation
Whatever you do in life, your reputation matters. Sometimes that concept is hard to grasp, given the very public way many of us live our lives these days.
But your reputation will most certainly come into question when choosing a life partner, building friendships, taking out a loan or finding a job. Indeed, with social networking connecting people in ways few of us imagined a generation ago, today’s web users need to be on guard when it comes to posting information about themselves as well as monitoring what others are saying.
There is some good news to report regarding personal reputation management, in the form of a report issued by the Pew Research Center. That report, “Reputation Management and Social Media,” shows that web users are actively monitoring and taking steps to improve their presence online.
Specifically, the Pew study shows that web users are changing their privacy settings, restricting who can read their data and taking steps to remove unfavorable information about themselves online including untagging unfavorable photos of themselves on Facebook and other sites.
The Pew study has also shown that web users are actively using search engines to monitor what is being said about them with 57 percent of those surveyed doing so, up from 47 percent in 2006. At the same time, the number of users who have posted a profile about themselves online has increased sharply with 46 percent of adults saying they have a social media profile, up from 20 percent in 2006.
Today’s web user is also much more likely to search for old friends online and look for information about people they know. Yes, you’re checking out what your friends are up to, but they’re doing the same when it comes to wanting to know the real you.
So, how can you protect or fix your reputation online? Well, it isn’t as difficult as it may seem, but it does require consistent monitoring on your part. Some of the steps I take have helped me out, tips I’ll share with you here:
Google Alerts — Google is by far and away the largest search engine and is likely the place where people will search first in order to dig up info about you. Google Alerts is a tool you can use to track down just about any utterance about you online, particularly stuff said that appears in Google’s search. I set up alerts for my full name, nickname, certain categories I regularly appear in such as “the article writer” and one or two other places and have those alerts sent to me at least once daily. I’ll then check out anything that looks out of place and handle it accordingly.
RSS Feeds — You can’t track every blog feed out there, but you can at least capture those likely to mention you. Any feed related to your college or university, club, interest group or other organization should be checked regularly. Bloglines, Google Reader and Blog Navigator are just a few of the many feed aggregators out there.
Social Media — I have one policy regarding social media: if I no longer use that site, I remove my information and move on. I have accounts with Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, StumbleUpon, Digg and elsewhere, but I have canceled profiles on Reddit, Mixx and other sites where I’m no longer active. If I use an assumed name, then I may leave everything in place. In any case, check out who your friends are, what they’re saying about you and photos they may be tagging.
Positive Boost — If getting negative information about yourself removed is difficult or impossible, consider countering that negativity with positive action. Specifically, work with your friends to have positive reviews about you appear online. Work the search engine results pages (SERPs) to at least push negative news off of the front page. Over time, your opponents will see that you mean business and will look for an easier target.
The good news about the Pew study is that younger web users are generally much more aggressive about managing their online reputation, removing negative comments about themselves on social media sites while trusting these same sites less than other web users.