Managing your online reputation
Is your face on Facebook? What about LinkedIn? Do you tweet? Have you ever posted a comment on a company’s website or news page? Is your online CV up to date? Do you even know where it is?
The chances are that even if you’re not a regular blogger or social networker, it’ll still be possible to find something about you on the web. And if you’re looking for a new job, what’s found could make the difference between an offer and a rejection. It’s estimated that over a quarter of HR professionals have rejected an applicant on the basis of what appears on the web; so why not Google yourself and see what comes up? With around 60% of employers doing just that, you’ll get a feel for what they may learn about you.
In this guide we look at how to manage your online reputation – effectively.
Why your online reputation is important?
Reputation is all about perception, which is never more important than when you’re trying to create the right one. Whatever your name throws up on Google, will give an instant picture of your wider personality and interests. Information stays on the web for a long time, and negative publicity generally can’t be deleted from search engines. If you decide to build an online reputation that works to your advantage, consider what impression of yourself you want to project, then spend as much time managing your reputation as you would on crafting your CV. If it all sounds like too much hassle and you’d just prefer to stay firmly offline, remember to close down your accounts – from Facebook to Flickr – before forsaking the online world.
Dealing with a bad online reputation
Unlike tattoos, comments you’ve made online in the heat of the moment can be cleaned up to improve your reputation. Some professional sites such as LinkedIn will let you remove comments or edit your profile accordingly. Forums or blogs – where you may have complained about customer service – may not. It is however often harder to remove pictures and videos in which you’ve been tagged, but you can contact the person that posted it and ask them to un-tag you or, better still, remove it altogether.
For those comments that you’re unable to do anything about, don’t worry – time is a great healer. The longer a web page has little or no activity, the lower down the search results it will appear; so older comments about less topical items will have less of an impact.
Post worthwhile questions and add sensible comments to discussions on your own or other people’s blogs and professional discussion groups. You’ll not only position yourself professionally when you do appear in a search, but you’ll also push more of the outdated poorer content further down the search results.
If you create the right perception, it can help to open the right doors. So consider actively refining a positive online presence. Decide what you want your online reputation to look like, and target media that will help you to achieve it.
Professional networks give you a great opportunity to demonstrate what you’ve done and how others regard you. Write helpful articles, post insightful reviews or answer someone’s burning question. By actively contributing to online forums and professional networks, you can position yourself as an industry authority.
Make sure your content is appropriate
Always follow this piece of advice to ensure you content is appropriate: if you wouldn’t want your mother to read or see it, don’t put it on the internet.
Here are some simple rules to bear in mind:
- It’s easy to get carried away by the banter on social networking sites but be careful not to be drawn into expressing extreme views that you may later regret.
- Take care when updating your status. It may well have been a difficult day, or a colleague may have upset you, but avoid making critical or personal comments.
- Think twice before posting embarrassing or funny photographs of yourself and/or your friends. If you wouldn’t display them on your desk, don’t display them on the web.
- Abide by the rules. If your employer has strict rules about the use of social networking sites, then stick to them.
Network, network, network
For someone who truly nurtures their relationships with contacts, social media can be the biggest referral network available.
- Remember that asking for recommendations is normally a sign that you’re looking for work – this means that any current colleagues in your network will know that you’re on the market. Perhaps wait to ask a manager or contact at the completion of a specific project that you’ve worked on, as that way they’re providing a recommendation based on a particular piece of work.
- Only ask for recommendations from people that have worked with you and carry weight, such as senior management with a clear link to the role you did.
- Don’t be offended if people decline your request for a recommendation. They may be concerned about their own online reputation as a recommendation for you remains in the public domain for life.
So you’ve done what you can to protect your own reputation; you’ve commented in only a professional manner and managed your personal profile so that only friends can see it. But is it enough? Sadly, the answer is no. There is always the threat that you will be found through your friends. However, by following a few simple rules you can limit the damage done:
- Employ the strictest privacy settings and set the highest levels of security.
- Remove any personal information, pictures or references you’d rather employers didn’t see.
- Ask your friends and colleagues to remove any damaging or disparaging statements, pictures or comments that feature you as this limits the damage done by your extended network.
- Keep up to date with what is being said about you and act accordingly.
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