Kicking off the new year with a new you? Just make sure you are in control of your old you – especially online, given the access by billions to your digital information.
We’ve all experienced negative postings online. Whether it’s that awful office party picture, a scathing review or even serious, defamatory comments. Several ways to deal with these detrimental posts are:
1. Be upfront. Any potential employer/customer/prospective date with even a smidgen of common sense will Google you the minute they’re serious about hiring, doing business with or dating you. It’s far better to come forward with the disclosure than wait for them to discover the negative information on their own. Let them know what’s out there, the truth and how you intend to handle it. (This may actually work as a positive for you in that it displays your awareness of online reputation and perception management.)
2. Apologize if necessary. It can be the case that you are wrong. You made a hasty mistake; an inappropriate tweet about your boss or a co-worker, an arrogant post about what you expect from people you date, even a goofball picture that doesn’t truly represent your best characteristics. A basic tenet of crisis control is, if you have caused the situation, apologize quickly and that will usually immediately lower the temperature of the perceived slight.
3. Get it down. Many people are just now beginning to realize the permanence of the web and how it can create a major branding challenge: once negative information is out there, it’s difficult to remove. If you’ve created the questionable content (a thoughtless tweet, a tasteless YouTube video) you can delete it and — eventually — it will be removed from the caches of Google and other search engines. (You can hasten the process by asking Google to remove a page or site from its listings — but only once it’s been taken down). If you don’t control the content, all you can really do is ask the person who does to remove it. This could be polite (a friend who’s posted an inappropriate photo to Facebook will probably oblige you) or not-so-polite (you may need to enlist a lawyer if someone is defaming you and won’t desist).
4. Control your SEO. The best and surest way to overcome negative information that’s plastered on the web? Create your own content and drive the bad stuff down in search engine rankings. No one but your worst enemy will bother to visit Page 20 on a Google search; most readers will stick to the first page or two. Creating a robust social media and online presence guarantees that the top results will be the ones you want people to see. Studies have shown that video, in particular, is prized by Google and will rank highly, so you might want to consider a video blog. Traditional blogs, because their content is updated frequently, are also search-engine-friendly. Creating profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter also helps (they’re frequently at the top of Internet searches), and it also never hurts to get quoted in the media or write articles for various publications (which benefits anyone’s personal brand).
If you stick to the principle that everything you input will be seen by a prospective contact, you should be able to eventually develop enough self filters to avoid undoing your reputation online. (Conversely, being too close-mouthed will make others think you are insignificant or have things to hide. Play it real and play it smart.)
Included below is a link to 50 niche search engines you should be aware of; Google isn’t the only search site people use to research your background and credentials.
Our Operatives: Street smart, web savvy.
As always, stay safe.