Your 15 minutes of fame will last a lifetime on the Internet.
Former Indiana deputy Attorney General found this out a couple weeks ago, when he was fired for posting tweets that called for the use of live ammunition against the Wisconsin protesters. I had the chance to appear on WISH TV the day Cox was fired to talk about the importance of managing one’s personal brand on social media.
I told WISH anchor Debby Knox, “Unfortunately, this sort of thing will follow him around forever. When someone, like a new employer, Googles his name — even 10 years from now — this story will forever be associated with it.”
The problem is, as a lot of people are learning the hard way, what you say on the Internet, even something as small as a 140-character tweet or keg-stand photo, will be around forever. And if the wrong people find it, you’ll be crucified with it. Whether that’s a potential employer or someone from the media, you can be guaranteed you’ll be found out.
Here are five online reputation management tactics you need if you’re concerned about your personal brand.
1. Know What The Internet Is Saying About You
We worked with one guy whose name was nearly identical to someone convicted of real estate fraud in the same state. The felon’s name would always appear first in a Google search if you just typed in our guy’s name. Anyone who knew him knew the difference, but when it came to potential clients, they would probably worry that they were going to hire a convicted felon.
Anyone who is named Jeffrey Cox is going to have a similar problem. A quick Google search showed that there are a lot of guys named Jeffrey Cox, even here in Indiana. Imagine the problems they’re going to have for the next several months or few years when people try to find them…
To know what people are saying about you, sign up for Google News Alerts, and have an alert set for your own name, your company name, and even your Twitter handle. Monitor this closely, and pay attention to any mention of your name that’s not on your own blog or website.
2. Know Your Influence
Whether you prefer Klout or Twitalyzer, or any of the myriad of other influence analysis tools out there, you need to know how many people are paying attention to you. If you want to positively manage your reputation, then you need to have that number as high as you can possibly get it. I prefer Klout, only because that’s what everyone is using, and so it’s easier to compare my reach by using the same stats as everyone else.
3. Practice Search Engine Optimization
Normally this is a website-/blog-only technique. If you want to get your blog or website to the top of the search engines, you need to optimize it so Google and the other search engines know exactly what your blog (and each individual post) is about.
This becomes more important if you want to knock something off Google’s front page. If you made a mistake and something is appearing at the top of Google, you need to focus on a couple of properties, like a blog, and optimize it so it sits at the top of the search rankings.
This practice is called reverse search engine optimization, and it’s becoming more important as companies and individuals realize they either made one mistake they don’t want following them around, or in a few cases, someone shares a name with a convicted felon (see below).
4. Use YouTube and Flickr/Picasa
Photos and videos are an excellent SEO tool. Not only do they boost your search rankings, but your photos and videos will often show up in your search results. If you have another result you need to boot off Google, photos and videos can help. Sign up for (and use!) YouTube and either Flickr or Picasa.
I prefer Picasa only because Google owns it, and it’s easier to integrate with my other Google properties, but Flickr is by far the more popular photo sharing site.
The best way to use photos and videos is to embed the code into a blog post, rather than uploading the photo or video to your own blog. Not only does it take up server space, but you don’t get as much search engine juice for an uploaded video as you do for an embedded one.
5. Join a Niche Social Network
If you’re trying to find a new job or establish your expertise in an industry, join a social network that’s specific to that industry. Or join one geared toward your local community. I first started connecting with people on Smaller Indiana, an Indiana-based network for people who live and work in the state. Even now, when my name appears in Google searches, there are a few results from Smaller Indiana that appear in the results.
Additionally, participating in that network will make you more visible to the other people on it. If you’re trying to make your name known in an industry, contributing a lot of valuable content to the network will accomplish this for you. Answer questions, write valuable information, and forward interesting articles to your fellow network members, and they’ll come to rely on you as someone valuable and worth working with or even hiring.
How are you managing your online reputation? Any tools or tricks we should know about? Leave a comment and let us know.
My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on Amazon.com, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.