You.com -- How To Monitor Your Reputation (And Privacy) On Social Networks
Skim any news website these days and you are likely to find a story about online privacy -- and the lack of it. All of the buzz is justified: There are still very few rules in place about what people can and can't do online. This means that you have to be proactive and diligent about managing your online reputation and privacy in this "Wild West" world. In many cases, people will "meet" you online before they meet you in person, so it's important to make sure your online image accurately reflects the real you.
By far the best way to manage your online reputation is to actively post positive, professional content associated with your name and regularly visit the sites where you are active. If you have a good reputation, people will give you the benefit of the doubt and realize that something is amiss if they receive a spam message from you or see something distasteful related to your name. As with so many things in life and on the Internet, good common sense is the first line of defense.
Get Seriously Social
Having a profile you wouldn't be ashamed to show your mother on all of the major social networks -- LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google Profiles -- is the first line of defense in controlling your online reputation. All of these sites generally zoom up the Google rankings and will likely appear on the first page of results when someone searches on your name. Make sure that any profiles you post are complete, accurate and regularly updated.
To go one step further, it's a good idea to sign up for other major social networks -- even those you don't use -- to "claim" your name on these sites so no one else claims to be you. Check out http://namechk.com to find out which sites have your username available and register for the most popular networks. Personal branding expert Dan Schawbel recommends claiming your name on Twitter, Facebook, WordPress.com, LinkedIn.com, Technorati, Tumblr and YouTube for starters. It's also smart to buy your domain name, for instance, JaneDoe.com. Even if you never put up a website, you'll ensure that no one else will launch one in your name.
Monitor Your Reputation
When you are active on the Internet, it can happen that someone posts a not-so-nice comment about you on a social network. Or you might have a blemish on your reputation from the past that comes back to haunt you in a blog post, article or video. If you face this issue, don't panic: There are several things you can do.
First, you should un-tag yourself from any and all content that is incorrect or damaging to your reputation. If you don't have access to a particular comment or photo, try reaching out to the person who has posted the negative content and ask him or her to remove it. If you are polite and persistent, most reasonable people will agree.
If that doesn't work, the best way to "cover up" something negative is to post as much positive content as possible and "push" the negative content down in the search results for your name. In addition to being active on social networks, you can write book reviews on Amazon.com, contribute articles to industry association websites and comment on professional blogs using your real name. Even if you can't entirely remove negative content about yourself, your reputation will stay intact if the vast majority of online information about you is positive and accurate.
Now, how do you best protect yourself from any negative online content in your future? One of the best ways to monitor your online reputation is to set up a Google alert (http://www.google.com/alerts) to receive an email anytime your name is mentioned anywhere on the web, including news sites, video sites, social networks and more. Be sure to set up alerts for variations of the spelling of your name or include your middle name or initial as well. If you see something incorrect in one of your alerts, you can deal with it immediately.
You also need to protect the privacy of any personal information posted online. Demographically speaking, some groups appear to be more active with regard to protecting their privacy than others. In a recent Pew study, researchers found that people ages 18 to 29 were more apt to monitor privacy settings than older adults are, and they more often delete comments or remove their names from photos so they cannot be identified.
As you continue to build your personal brand on the web, keep track of privacy developments and stay diligent about monitoring your online existence. In the Information Age, reputation management is more important than ever. Your online presence should be just as impressive, professional and fabulous as your real world one.
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