A good rule of thumb is: Before you buy it, date it, or hire it, Google it. There was a time when finding background information on a person or a business was a skill reserved for private investigators and police. Today, virtually anyone can find incredibly detailed facts about you, your past, your business, and your private life with almost no effort or expense.
Your online reputation is out there for everyone to see, and with the near-permanance that the Internet brings, it’s more important than ever to take steps to control your rep. If you’re not privy to what they’re saying about you online, you’re putting your business in danger.
Online reputation can make or break a business.
Discover what’s out there before someone else does.
Benjamin Franklin said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”
People judge other people by the company they keep; therefore, people are naturally choosy about with whom they do business. If your online reputation is bad, your business will suffer because potential clients, customers, and partners will know that even though they may want to pair up with you, if they do, they’ll be guilty by association.
You must protect your online rep for when people check you out online before doing business with you, which they’re sure to do.
First thing’s first. Before you get started discovering and dealing with any negativity directed toward you online, get the world’s preeminent search engine working for you in the background. Google Alerts do exactly that – it sets up a system by which Google alerts you to any item that appears online that contains the word or phrase you entered. It’s easy. Enter a phrase – put it in quotes if you want those words in exactly that order – and then hit “set alert”.
Alerts lets you establish multiple phrases at once. Start with your name, the name of your business, and the name of your Web site.
This one seems obvious, but keep reading. You’ve probably already Googled your name and your business’s name, and that’s a good start. But your online trail isn’t limited to the name you use in real life.
Don’t let your online history come back to haunt you.
If you’ve ever signed up for a message board, a forum, an online group, a fantasy football league – anything – you’ve probably used a log-on or screen name that wasn’t your own. This was likely often your email address, and if it wasn’t, it was probably the screen name you use for everything else.
Google your email address and any screen names you may have used and see what you find. If there’s still a remnant of that message board you ranted on about your political beliefs when you were 20 years old, maybe it’s time to delete that account.
The Social Media Pitfall
Facebook and Twitter are without question the number-one warehouse of things online that you wish weren’t online. And in most cases, you have no one to blame but the man in the mirror.
Facebook is fairly easy to deal with. Go on right now, click on that gear icon in the upper right-hand corner, and click on “Privacy settings.” In the section labeled “Who can see my stuff?”, click on “Limit Past Posts” next to “Limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with friends of friends or Public?” Select “Friends” instead of “Public.” By taking this action, everything you’ve ever posted on Facebook is visible only to your friends – including that picture of you doing a keg-stand in college and the expletive-filled rant you posted in the middle of the night about the Miami Heat when you were drinking. Next, go to “Review all your posts and things you’re tagged in” and make sure no one else has put something up that you wouldn’t want out there.
Twitter is a little harder. It pretty much entails going through each Tweet one by one and weeding out anything incriminating or embarrassing.
Build a Wall
In the future, separate your personal life and business on social media. They don’t need to overlap, and you shouldn’t let them. It’s good for both your business and your online reputation.
Create a Facebook page for your professional enterprises separate from the one you use to post pictures of your kid eating spaghetti. Create a separate Twitter account altogether for your business. When you tell clients to follow you on Twitter, you don’t want them to find your feed only to have it clouded with personal posts.
Be vigilant about monitoring and protecting
your online reputation.
This is the digital age. Your online reputation is your actual reputation.
The Internet is a powerful tool that has forever changed the way business is done.
It’s also dark, deep, and unforgiving when it comes to past transgressions. It is imperative that you know what’s out there and that you’re doing something to correct it.
Set up alerts, use common sense when it comes to social media, and understand that if you’re doing business, people are going to be looking. Make sure you’re in control of what they find.