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Online Reputation Management for Individuals

Posted on Feb 12th, 2008
Written by Lee Odden
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    Recently I’ve had several discussions with a reporter on how small businesses can effectively use blogger relations and PR to market themselves. Out of that conversation came another topic about Online Reputation Management – not for companies, but for individuals.

    There’s a tremendous amount of content and in some cases debate, being generated in the search marketing and public relations communities about the need to measure brands and reputations online. The first step in a ORM program is to start monitoring and there are some pretty incredible and often times costly software tools emerging to do that.

    That’s all fine and good for measuring brands or companies, but what if the brand is you?

    For example, there’s no doubt that both companies and candidates do a bit of “Googling” on each other to get a sense of what they’re getting in to before an in-person interview. I’m sure you’ve heard of stories where a company either didn’t hire or in some cases fired employees because of what was discovered on Facebook or MySpace.

    Alternatively, candidates use search to look up companies they might want to look for and the top ten search results on the company name are distinctly influential in the mind of the searcher. Are the results littered with complaints, law suits and “” entries? Or are they displaying social profiles, blog, press releases and news coverage of the company?

    There’s a case to be made for individuals that anticipate working or being involved in an industry where their “online persona” could significantly affect (positive or negative) their ability to get work or maintain employment. Whether a person is starting out on a job search after college or a tenured executive is making a career change, it is without question that the ease of being able to type a person’s name into a search box will drive some queries. The question is, what will come up?

    Monitoring one’s own personal brand (whether it’s your name or an online user account name) can easily start with Google Alerts. You can also subscribe to the search results on a blog search engine like Technorati or to something like Google Video search results.

    Let’s assume we’ve made the case for taking charge of our online persona. What can a person who’s not savvy in the ways of SEO, social media and online public relations do to make sure they are represented positively and at least accurately online? I could spend another 500 words answering that topic but what I’ll do is update this post when the article comes out and point to that. Awwwww, you say? OK, I’ll put a few ideas below:

    • Be smart about what you allow strangers to see on your Facebook and MySpace profiles or blogs. There’s a reason you have a network of friends and why some people are in it and the rest of the world is not.
    • Create business profiles on social networks like LinkedIn as well as niche social communities according to your interest such as YouTube, Flickr, Digg or any of the other many social media sharing and news web sites.
    • Start a blog. Register your own domain name and use the service to host the blog itself. The domain name costs $10/year and the service is free. You could also spend just a little more and use software on your own hosting account.
    • A domain name that uses your own name is important so your dopleganger doesn’t get it 🙂 and also because the likelihood of others linking to it will use your name as anchor text. Use the blog to cross link to your social profiles and embed any videos, audio or images – even your resume – that you would like people to find.
    • Find the good stuff that’s already out there about you that might not yet be ranking on the first page and get links to that content. Cross linking between profiles is one way to do this, but promoting your interests and even content that you’ve created online with links to the pages that represent your accomplishments can also work well. A few social bookmarks on anything that presents you accurately and positively isn’t a bad idea either.

    There are many more things an individual can do to improve their online reputation but the important thing to remember is that whatever gets put online, is pretty much forever. Sometimes it seems like a good idea at the time and now it’s not, sometimes it’s simply not accurate and sometimes the information reflects a person’s previous situation but is not an accurate representation now.

    Whatever the situation, there are many individuals that would do well to make an effort to take control of how they’re represented online before undesirable information gets published. As it is for companies, a proactive approach is insurance for individuals as well. If something does happen and a person already has multiple personal networks established with several different social networking, news and media sharing services, a blog and plenty of links coming in, it’s likely to be a nominal issue.

    That all sounds like a lot of effort but spread over time, it’s not difficult or time consuming and networking/making friends is a good thing. Plus it’s a lot better than being put into a reactionary situation and starting from scratch.

    I’m curious what readers of Online Marketing Blog think in terms of the need for individuals to be aware and proactive about their online personas. Does it make sense? Have you experienced the positive or negative of being easily found online?