There was a time many years ago when the Internet was almost completely anonymous. People online were nothing more than clever screen names and text on other computer screens. You could say and do just about anything, and it would in no way affect your reputation. Those days are long gone. Now, everything that you say and do on the Internet is available for all to see, and it often comes attached to a detailed social media profile that will tell everyone exactly who you are. While that certainly isn’t a bad thing if you’re a business owner looking to connect with people, it isn’t so great if that business has some bad reviews that have tarnished your reputation, even if those reviews were almost entirely false.
This is why online reputation management has become such a big deal in recent years. Potential clients, employers, and even potential romantic partners can type your name into Google and find something about you. If you want that something to make you look good, consider these helpful online reputation management tips.
Before you do anything else, you need to know what kind of information about you is out there. Fortunately, doing this is as simple as entering your name or your business’s name into Google. In fact, 75 percent of adults in the United States have Googled themselves. Sadly, about half of them haven’t liked what they’ve found. Small businesses have found negative reviews, individuals have found embarrassing or compromising photos of themselves from years ago, and others were reminded that they once made some inflammatory posts in the past. The latter problem even made headlines recently when Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn was fired by Disney over some offensive tweets he wrote ten years ago.
As hard as it may be to face a potentially embarrassing past or read some ego-shattering reviews about your business, you need to Google yourself to know how you come across on the Internet. Make a note of everything you find, especially the negative stuff so you can either delete it or somehow offer a rebuttal. You won’t get rid of every bad thing about you, but it’s a good first step in managing your reputation.
Consider Your Brand Image and Goals
If you have a presence online, you have a personal brand. Even if you’re just some random person looking for a job or date, you should be thinking about how you come across in a Google search as a brand. Think of some positive traits you want to convey to anybody who researches your name. These should come across as clearly as possible. Granted, that will be something that will take some time if your reputation has taken a hit or you’re trying to establish a small business, but at the very least you can set a goal for yourself.
Create Social Media Profiles
Every business should have at least one social media profile; it’s probably one of the first things that will show up when someone Googles your name. If you have some profiles that you aren’t using, either delete them or update them with current information that reflects your brand goals. Focus on growing these profiles so they reflect your ideal brand image. Create a content posting schedule, and adhere to it as closely as possible even if that means hiring someone to manage your business’s profiles for you. The last thing you want is to have your social media profiles go silent; the Internet moves so fast that you will be forgotten if this happens.
Moderate Comments, But Don’t Argue
Comments are a great way to communicate with your client base, but there will always be obnoxious trolls who will try to offend everybody. You don’t want this kind of offensive content anywhere near your brand, so kill it whenever you see it.
You will also have people disagree with you or even offer legitimate complaints about you or your brand. It’s inevitable, so don’t take it too personally. Respond to the complaints as respectfully as possible, and offer solutions to problems whenever you can. However, you should never argue with anybody online. Even the smallest arguments get really ugly online; people are thousands of miles apart and sitting safely behind computer screens, and they will say some very offensive and hurtful things that they would never say in person. It’s the kind of negativity that will hurt your brand, even if you’re not in the wrong.
Transparency is one of the most important parts of having a good online reputation, yet it is something that is becoming increasingly rare. People can say or be anything online, and it’s not hard to fool people. If you’re running a business, offer any information that you can to prove that you are legitimate. Make your business’s website easy to follow, and offer plenty of chances for people to reach you either online or offline. You’re more than just a screen name or a Facebook photo, so be prepared to act like it.
Fact Check Everything
Just because you’re being transparent doesn’t mean that everyone else will be as well. When you find something that seems questionable online, do some additional research to see how much of it is really true. Do this before you repost anything or promote a business that might not be entirely legitimate. You don’t want to be associated with something that turns out to be a scam, even if you only mentioned it in a blog post.
The most important part about managing your online reputation is staying vigilant. It’s impossible to know everything that is said about you or your brand, but you should still monitor your social media profiles and Google yourself regularly to make sure that the most accessible information paints you in a good light. They say that what goes on the Internet stays there forever, so you will want to make sure that the “forever” content won’t damage your reputation too badly.