I was recently at a presentation about digital communications and when the speaker asked if anyone had Googled themselves lately there were sniggers in the room. Maybe my fellow delegates were thinking that Googling oneself is a sign of being ‘big-headed’ and egotistical? I didn’t snigger- putting my name into search engines has been something I’ve done for years. It’s a really important part of managing your personal online reputation.
The presentation reminded me of a book I read in 2010: Me and My Web Shadow by Antony Mayfield. You can buy it here on Amazon– I recommend that you do.
When you browse the contents page you’d be forgiven for thinking that any chapter called ‘Privacy and Facebook’ would be out of date before it was even published, and you’d be right. In fact, Mayfield acknowledges this in the introduction- it’s a fact of life that content about technology and the web will be outdated shortly after it’s written.
That said, there are some fundamental principles that Mayfield writes about that if followed, will help you manage what is written about you on the internet, and we all know that most employers check job candidates out online, before they even read their CV.
Mayfield cites his Top Ten Rules for Managing Your Web Shadow. I’ve summarised these into my Top 5:
1. Search yourself regularly
Put your name into Google and other search engines on a regular basis to see what comes up about you. If something comes up that has been written about you that is not particularly positive, you need to take steps to address this…
2. Be in control – be the best source of information about yourself
When a new social network enters the market, even if you don’t understand it or see the relevance to you yet, sign up and take your preferred username before anyone else can.
If you’re present on multiple networks, Google is likely to bring all your profiles or content up first (and let’s face it, no-one looks past the first page of Google- it’s the best place to be). Mayfield says: “If you are first in Google then you always have the first say about yourself”. If you are the source then you can be sure the information about you is accurate, current and always positive.
3. Know your networks and be useful in them
So if you’re a PR professional, it’s important for you to be present in all the networks, media, forums, groups, pages, circles etc that all your PR colleagues (and competitors) are in. How will you hear what’s going on if you’re not present? And the next step up from simply being there is to be useful. Provide content, whether you’ve created it or curated it, that your network will find engaging and relevant.
4. Behave differently on your professional and personal networks
Unless your professional and personal lives are one and the same, it’s important to distinguish your behaviour in the online spaces you inhabit. For example, I don’t say anything about work on Facebook and I don’t particularly want photos of me out in a bar popping up on LinkedIn. The key to getting this right is understanding privacy settings and making sure you regularly check that your privacy hasn’t slipped.
5. Remember that your web shadow is a permanent record
What goes online stays online! If you don’t want a permanent record of what you’re thinking about saying, don’t say it. Don’t tweet when you’ve been drinking or when you’re angry. Although content can be deleted after it’s published, the chances are that if it’s something you wanted to delete, it’s already been retweeted or shared many times over, so it’s too late to be un-done.
Managing your online reputation is as important as how you present yourself in the real world. They are in fact, one and the same. Google yourself now and if you’re surprised by what you find, take action to put it right.