Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Managing Your Online Reputation

I wrote this originally for Suite101 on August 2, 2010 but I think it's so important that it deserves to be re-posted. It's amazing to me how many people just don't realize (or care) the damage they can do to themselves by not 'minding their Ps & Qs" as my mom always said,  So, with my permission (and as per the copyright of the piece which allows me to repost any of my work from Suite101 one year following the original post) here are some thoughts on protecting yourself while taking advantage of the awesome power of Social Media!

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Photo credit: Graur Razvan Jonut, Freedigitalphotos.net
Organizations and individuals in the past benefited from years of experience, a certain level of maturity and often a paid professional to guide them through the intricacies of creating and maintaining a positive corporate or professional image.
With the explosion of social media, an individual’s online reputation now starts to be built at a very young age. Today’s generation has grown up online and these “digital natives” are beginning to enter the workforce with a huge disadvantage. Their youthful antics and sometimes bad decisions are splayed across the internet for all, including potential employers, to see.

Employers Use the Internet to Weed out Applicants

According to a report on CBS News on January 10, 2009, “It's estimated that more than 70 percent of employers do a Web search on job applicants as part of their hiring procedures. More than half of them admit to not bringing someone on board because of negative information they found online.”

That figure has probably increased even more dramatically since then and unfortunately privacy laws have not caught up to Web 2.0 which means that nothing is sacred. Embarrassing photos posted, inflammatory comments made in the heat of the moment and rants printed on blogs can become a poster’s worst nightmare.

So it went with now infamous Stacy Snyder who posted a party photo of herself online and was denied her teaching degree months before her graduation from Millersville University School of Education. The school felt that she was not setting a good example for her students by promoting drinking (she was doing a teaching practicum in a high school at the time).

Millions Cruise and Use Social Media

Facebook’s 500 million members spend more than 500 billion minutes a month on the site posting with abandon not believing the same thing could possibly happen to them. Messages posted on the wildly popular Twitter (which has more than 105 million-plus registered users according to an article in PC Magazine, “Twitter Blows Past 20-Billionth Tweet” on July 31, 2010) are now being archived at the Library of Congress according to a CNN report on April 14, 2010. So, the best approach to all online interaction is to keep in mind that it’s an online reputation that has viral tentacles and individuals networking online shouldn’t post anything they wouldn’t like to read in the headlines the next morning.

Online Reputation Monitoring

According to LifeHacker.com the best way to start managing an online reputation is to start tracking what’s being said using tools like Google Alert or Monitor This. In the January 2009 CBS report, Michael Fertik from image management company Reputation Defender, suggests these three important steps as a good start:
  1. Write your own history - establish a professional profile, website, blog, Twitter account and make sure they're search engine optimized so that these positive, professional references appear higher on a search results page.
  2. Constantly monitor the web and stay on top of anything that's being said.
  3. If there's something negative or inaccurate, deal with it immediately and directly with the poster.
  More information on how to manage your online reputation can be found at Microsoft's online safety guidelines' page.


Here's an update on some of the numbers since I originally wrote this piece:
  • A report on the BBC on Oct. 5, 2012 stated that there were over one BILLION users who log onto Facebook every month.
  • On it's sixth birthday in March, 2012, Twitter announced that it had 140 million users Tweeting 340 million times per day