Kossovan July’20

Digitized Koffee With Nick

Your Online Reputation Matters

By Nick Kossovan

Deny all you want; the fact is today your digital footprint will make or break you.

Accept the fact before being hired, dated, accepted, welcomed into the tribe… whatever social, professional or personal relationship you are seeking to be a part of… your name will be searched many times. Assume everyone uses search engines to “check you out.” Keep in mind besides the king of search engines, Google, there’s Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, DuckDuckGo, Ask.com, AOL, Excite, to name a few.

When was the last time you audited your online presence? Not just via search engines, also including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, discussion groups (Reddit, Quora), photos you are tagged in. Regularly, at least every 3 months, you should see how the world sees you. Like it or not, you will be searched before being engaged. 

To review your online reputation, start by doing a search. Using no less than three search engines, such as Google, Yahoo and Bing, put your first and last name in quotations, “John Smith.” If you have a well-known nickname, do the same for that. Also, search for your name together with schools you have attended, companies you have worked for, and organizations you are a member of. In addition to using holistic search engines, consider using specialized search engines such as technorati.com (Blog search engine), blogsearch.google.com (Google blog search), video.google.com (Google video search). As a minimum, look at the first three to five pages of results.

Your search may turn up university party pictures when you won the keg contest, remnants of a heated online discussion, disparaging comments about you. Your first step to cleaning up your online reputation is to make a list of what you need to remove and take action.

Start with the lowest hanging fruits; fixing what you can control. What is on your Facebook page, blog posts, LinkedIn comments you posted, YouTube videos you uploaded, your tweets you can easily change. Make anything possibly objectional private or delete. Ask yourself, if someone came across the picture, text, video, how would they judge you? The harsh reality of life is people will judge you, and the Internet is one more tool they have to do so, without even having met you face-to-face.   

When it comes to sites you don’t control, you will need to use diplomacy. In the kindest possible way, contact the Webmaster, blogger or content owner and ask to have the content removed. Be specific about the page and section (provide a link) and ask them to take it down as a courtesy to you. Tell them it does not accurately represent you and thank them in advance.

If, after several attempts, you do not get a response or are told flat out “no,” you still have a few options. If picture, text or video is something you feel you can speak to, should it be brought up, then be prepared to do so. If you think the content is defamatory and damaging to your reputation, consider consulting a lawyer. Odds are a strongly worded letter from a lawyer will do the job.

Often the pictures, videos and text you are now squeamish about are ancient history and are showing up because there is nothing new about you. The best approach is to create new and positive content across numerous websites to bury your past. Search engines prefer “new” over “old,” and therefore, any content you create will show up at the top of search results.

Begin by creating, or updating, your profile on networking sites such as LinkedIn, Zoominfo, Facebook, etc. Add more contacts, ask for references (LinkedIn). Visit industry sites, specific to the industry you currently work in, that have forum or blogs and participate. The same for your hobbies and interests. Comment on posts using your full name. Write reviews on books, products you have purchased, your travel experience, experience with a retailer, on Amazon, Yelp, Facebook, Google My Business, Trip Advisor, again using your full name. 

If you have a Website or blog, update it and keep feeding it new content regularly. If you belong to a club, organization or group participate online, so your name shows up. If you have interesting photographs, post them on a photo-sharing site (Flickr, Instagram).

Your goal is to “get out there.” Give search engines plenty of favourable content to find you.

Moving forward, commit to monitoring your name on the Internet. Use free services such as Google Alerts, Talkwalker Alerts and Hootesuite to send you emails whenever they find your name. If you do not like what you see, then take immediate action to rectify it, the sooner the better.

~Nick Kossovan is the Customer Service Professionals Network’s Director of Social Media (Executive Board Member). Submit your social media questions to nick.kossovan@gmail.com. Selected questions will be answered in future columns. Follow @NKossovan on Instagram and Twitter.