Wednesday, April 20, 2011

YPW: What Is Your Online Reputation?

How fitting that this would fall on 4/20, as I see many on my Twitter timeline publicly discussing their drug use. Some even have their real full name in the profile. O_o

More and more, employers are checking out their employees and potential employees via the web. According to an article posted yesterday on, "A 2010 study by Microsoft and Cross-Tab, a market-research agency, found that 78% of surveyed U.S. companies examined the search-engine results of prospective hires. The study also found that 86% of employers reported that a positive online reputation factors into their hiring decision." They want to see "the real you," not just your representative from the interview. What will they find when they Google you?

Take a moment and do a search for your name. Go ahead, I'll wait. *plays hold muzak*


So what did you find? When I search my full name, I get my results related to my business: the real estate website & blog, a professional Twitter handle, and my LinkedIn account. There are also a ton of results that have absolutely nothing to do with me. Guess my name is more common than I thought, which can be a mixed blessing.

The Internet makes it easy to give TMI, sometimes without even realizing it. If you find some not-so-great results for yourself, you may be able to do damage control. Facebook is the biggie here. You notice I didn't list Facebook above. That's because I am militant about my security settings; I check, check and check again. So no, you won't find that by doing a public search. However, that is not necessarily foolproof, so you still need to safeguard your account. Un-tag pictures that may cast a negative light (drug use, extreme drunkenness, displaying weapons), monitor what goes on your wall (keep profanity to a minimum and discourage profanity and hate speech from others), and refrain from the negative comments about your boss, coworkers, customers, etc. I know the last one is tempting! But trust me, managers tend to look down on those kind of things. The same is true for Twitter, Myspace if you haven't stepped out of 2005, and whatever other social networks you may be on. (If you just must have an online venue to vent, I suggest a Twitter or Tumblr account under an alias with a different email address than what's listed on your resume. Can't be too careful!)

If you don't have much info coming up, or if you want to add more positive results, there are several things you can do. Create a LinkedIn account and be sure to update it at least twice a week. (For the uninitiated, LinkedIn is sort of like Facebook but specifically for the purpose of networking with other professionals). Do the same for Twitter. If you don't want to go through the hassle of creating two Twitter accounts, don't! You can make yours what I call a blended account where you discuss business and share select personal information (basically, remember yesterday's rule of not over-sharing and apply it here). You may also want to create a blog to get your name out there. Do one that is strictly professional, or follow the same format you would for the blended Twitter account. It may take a little time to get listed higher up in the rankings, but with regular activity it will happen. (Let me pause here to say that I am ignorant when it comes to Search Engine Optimization. I'm learning, but I can't tell you a thing about it right now, so do like me and do some research on how SEO can be helpful to you.)

Lastly, if you need help burying negative info that you have no control over, you need to bring out the big guns. The professionals. Companies like and Integrity Defenders work to bury negative info (because it's almost impossible to erase stuff from the 'net) under a ton of positive info. These people know all about SEO, search algorithms, all that good stuff. Of course, it will cost you and it can be pretty pricey, so this is not a quick fix because you don't want to change your Facebook privacy settings. This is some in-depth damage control.

So fellow young professionals, how well do you manage your online reputation? Now that you are in "the real world" have you changed your perception of social media and how it's used? Speak on it!

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