One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a public figure, or even as someone who is trying to brand themselves, is to assume that you don’t need online reputation management. Even if you head or own a business, it would be an error on your behalf to pay close attention to your company’s reputation online and ignore your own. If there’s something that can be learned, for example, from Elon Musk’s many recent reputation scandals, is that the face of the people heading the company has a great influence on its online reputation.
Needless to say, though, your personal online reputation is critical first and foremost for you. Without it, people who don’t know you are going to form their impression of you based on what Google tells them and you’ve ceded all control over this. Even worse, you probably have no idea what appears on page 1 for a search of your name.
With this in mind, do you want to go into a big meeting with a potential client or partner and be hostage to what Google is telling them about you? Or even imagine a worse scenario. Someone on the other side of the world with the same name as you has been doing some awful stuff. This has nothing to do with you, but people are easily confused. Why leave your reputation in the hands of fate and the bad people on the internet, when you can have some control over this?
What is personal online reputation management (ORM)?
At the heart of it, personal reputation management allows you to take control and ownership of the narrative that the internet displays about you. From Google search results to personal social media pages, from media mentions to profile articles, you need to have your name out there – and you need to control the process.
Classically there are four reasons why a person should engage in personal reputation management:
1. There is unfavorable content that appears about them significantly in search results
2. Google is confusing them with someone else of the same name
3. They have a lack of digital presence and they want to be more prominent
4. They want to strengthen themselves as a personal brand
People may say, notwithstanding, I’m never going to do anything that warrants unfavorable content written about me, and this may well be the case, but in today’s reality, it’s much more complicated than that. Why?
- No news is not good news – Above all, you need to be out there for your personal online reputation to be impressive. There is nothing worse than not being discussed at all, and some people will even tell you that it is better to be mentioned negatively than not to be mentioned at all. If you are not on the internet, you don’t exist.
- We all make mistakes – What if you get a case of road rage or shout at the waiter in the restaurant? Phones will be out, videos will be posted to social media and before you know it, page 1 is a disaster zone. It is much easier to document these days, for good and for bad, and much harder to control the flow of information and its speed.
- The age of the fake – These days, information spreads at lightning speed mainly because the whole concept of fact checking has become irrelevant, sadly. You know you’ve done nothing wrong. That does not mean that the internet knows that as well.
How to clean up the digital mess
Engaging in personal online reputation management is akin to cleaning up your place after a tsunami. Working on it beforehand and taking preemptive measures could help insulate it to a certain degree and provide protection from potential damage. Prevention really is better than cure. However, unlike a tsunami, in this case maintenance can be the key to preservation.
Google wants to provide searchers with what it believes are the best and most relevant results, and online reputation management works with Google to give searchers what they’re looking for and you want them to see. The results should be up to date and an accurate depiction of who you are.
This means that you need to:
- Initiate – don’t wait for the need to respond to Google search results, make sure that the results you want are there to take the top spots. This means news articles, social media posts with high engagement and even personal websites and blogs.
- Monitor – you need to constantly check your name on Google, and you need to do it via different locations that are relevant to you (a VPN can come in handy here).
- Maintain – don’t assume that once you’ve reached the peak of Google search results, you’re done. These results eventually fade away and make room for new results. You need to make sure that the top ones remain relevant in the eyes of Google, and that you keep introducing new ones constantly.
- Respond – this should be the last step, and it should come only out of need. When a bad result about you appears, you need to have the right tools that will help you push it down and out of the first page.
The power of social media
We don’t need to tell you how important it is to be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and the rest (yes, TikTok too, get used to it). Even if you don’t want to be active on social media, it’s imperative for your personal online reputation that you have some sort of a presence there. In Google’s eyes, these accounts are not just a place where you share your thoughts on the inflation and pictures from the last vacation in Greece. They actually serve as placeholders to help connect the dots of who you are, and Google relies on them when building your search results. Furthermore, it also prevents anyone from impersonating you.
That’s why you need social media, and you need it maintained. It is also good for your social media pages to boast high engagement (likes, shares, comments and the rest). However, you also need to avoid publishing the wrong type of content on your social media profiles. Think of the consequences of the opinions you post online, and how they can come back to haunt you. Weigh carefully every image you decide to show the world, so it doesn’t bite back at you at some later point in your life. Our golden rule is ‘think twice before pushing the ‘post’ button, and then think a third time’.
Having said that, also know that you can always remove content you posted in the past. Furthermore, while feedback tends to stick even after content has been removed (and even make it to Google search), it is not impossible to remove that as well.
Your assets can take you far
Are you notable enough that you have a Wikipedia page? If so, what does it say about you? Is it accurate? If you don’t have one, would you like one?
Everyone and everything today is on Wikipedia. If you want to exist online, you must be there too. Thankfully, the process of owning a Wikipedia page is much simpler than it used to be. Having said that, Wikipedia (and its alternatives, such as Wikitia) are not the only assets you can have online.
When you type the name of someone famous on Google, you can see all types of assets that the internet has created for them. In this example you can see what is called a knowledge panel:
In this blog, we’ve already explained the importance of a knowledge panel, and how you can obtain one (and, most importantly, control what is in it). It doesn’t end there, though. The internet offers countless amounts of assets that you can create and modify, such as your own personal website, a blog you write, a Crunchbase portfolio, and more.
Ready to start shining your personal online reputation?
When people are coming over to the house, you straighten up. You take the pile of dirty clothes on the floor and put them in the laundry basket, you wash the dishes in the sink, and so on and so forth. If you do this for your real home, shouldn’t you also be doing this for your online home? Page 1 of Google for a search of your name is your online home.
As we spend more and more time online, our personal online reputation is our everything and with perception fuelling reality, what people think about us is going to be based on what they see online. This might seem scary at first, if you don’t know how it works. In this blog post we’ve shown that it is not as complicated as it first sounds. Furthermore, we are always happy to help, being the professionals at online reputation management that we are. Want to know more? Click the ‘contact us’ button up on top and we’ll get back to you in a jiffy.