How To Control Your Online Reputation In Four Easy Steps
Disclaimer: This post was inspired and sponsored by Domain.ME, the provider of the personal domains that end in .ME. As a company, they aim to promote thought leadership to the tech world. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
People say what goes on the Internet stays on the Internet permanently. It’s not false. Everything we post on our favorite social networks or send via email is likely stored in some sort of database online for great lengths of time. What we post and what others post about us matters. In a recent study done by Domain.ME, that surveyed 1,000 adults who frequently use social media and the Internet, 60% of respondents had not bothered to search for their name on popular search engines like Google. I find that hard to comprehend. I Google myself, and others, on an at least weekly basis. What people find attached to my name matters to me and is often the first impression they get of me before ever speaking to or meeting me in person.
One of the first things I do when preparing to go to a concert, conference, pick my upcoming semester’s college professors or attend a meeting is see what I can find out about those that are attending by doing a little research online. I’m a shy person and it helps with conversations. A perfect example of this was when I did a taste test at a restaurant chain I’d never been to a few months ago. Beyond the normal small talk about the new menu and what sorts of things the chain offered I was able to ask the owner about some of his background in the restaurant industry before starting his own chain. He was impressed that I knew a lot about his background and it led to a longer and more meaningful exchange that night. It was all information I found based on his personal website and the work history he featured. It was the information he put out for others to know about him (also called personal branding) and it improved my view of him before we’d even met.
That same .ME study shares many intriguing facts that prove that Americans are profoundly aware of the impact on a personal brand by information posted online:
- Nearly one in four (24%) Americans admit to being negatively affected by information about them online. That number more than doubles for millennials and comes in at 50%.
- More than a quarter of Americans (including more than one in three millennials) now believe they are more likely to make a first impression online than they are at a party.
- 42% of Americans surveyed have changed their opinion about someone else based on content they found online. Not surprisingly, those numbers are higher for millennials with 57% of them agreeing with that sentiment.
It’s important to Google yourself because the information attached to your name online is not always accurate or on brand with how you want to present yourself to your friends, family or professional networks. A whopping 60% of Americans have never bothered to search their name on a search engine and of those who do, less than half (47%) only do so once or twice a year.
I didn’t always care about how I turned up in search results online. It wasn’t until I had a run in with a group of individuals who disagreed with me on more than just my politics that I became interested in the idea of a digital reputation. They put some blatantly false information about me online and I needed to combat it. That’s when I came up with this basic formula for reputation management. If it ever happens to you, the best way to do this is to drown out the negative information with a flood of positive information:
Find out what people are saying about you
This is the part where you search for your name online and make a list of what is being said about you. This conversation or set of mentions is referred to as your digital reputation. It is also a super easy step. Just type your name into Google and see what comes up. If you share your name with others you might need to add an employer, the name of the town you live in, a hobby you are known for or other special identifying factors. You might want to create a Google Alert once you find the magic combination (or a couple of combinations) of terms that show results for you in order to effortlessly stay up to date with what is being said publicly about you online.
Fix what you can
If you find an embarrassing post you made when you were drunk or your beliefs have changed and you would never say that now delete it. If someone else posted it, reach out and see if they can correct or remove it.
Take control of the conversation
Get a .ME of your name or a name you are known by and start to improve your online standing. Start a blog sharing your opinion about a subject that you are knowledgeable about. Share stories about your professional accomplishments or future goals you are working towards. This site is yours to talk about yourself and even have others talk about you in a positive manner. Getting personal references and professional recommendations is a great way to tell your story and give it more credit.
Use your new .ME domain as an anchor for everything you so on social. Have conversations with others. Compliment those you look up to. Share your blog posts, personal stories and anything else you find interesting that you want your name attached to online. This will help your site’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and get more people to see the sides of you that you want to present.
I personally own three .ME domains for various personal branding goals for my wife and myself. It’s a great domain to present a personal message and not come off as cold or corporate like some other domain options out there. Ready to get your own .ME or find out more about your options? Check out Domain.ME this minute. You’ll be glad you did.