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Five Good Habits for Reputation Management Online

By Herb Tabin | Submitted on January 19th, 2011 0 Comments

More and more of our lives are on the Internet and so more and more of our reputations hinge on having a solid online presence. In the experience of Craig Agranoff and I, these are five habits that everyone who cares about their online reputation should have.

1. Think Before You Post
Before posting (or even emailing) information about yourself, including photographs and videos, consider whether you’d want your mother, your insurance provider, business partners or customers to see it. One drunken party photo or one stupid comment in a video can become fodder for the reputation slayers. So think before you post.

2. No Oversharing
This ties in with #1 and is probably the most common way that people ruin their reputations. While posting that one bad photo or one stupid comment could ruin you, continually posting banalities can be just as bad. Before you make those daily Facebook status updates and send those iPhone tweets about your current activities, think about the value they may (or may not) have. Does anyone other than you mom, sister, cousin, or wife care about your trip to the movies? Is the fact that your dog can (finally) sit on command really a life-altering event that should be enthusiastically tweeted? Don’t overshare.

3. Do Not Slam, Flame, or Attack Anyone Online
Yes, the Internet is full of people who make stupid remarks or who claim to know things they obviously know nothing about. These people probably deserve to be put in their place. But not by you. A flame or ad-hominem attack sullies you as much as it does the person you’re aiming for. Flaming quickly can become something more cyberbullying, stalking, or worse. Your attack on someone, no matter how innocuous, on a blog’s comment area could become a full-fledged campaign by them to post vitriol on your Facebook, YouTube, website, and other sites across the Internet. So do not slam, flame, or attack anyone online. It might feel good right now, but it can haunt you later.

4. Do An Online Purge
For most of those we talk with when discussing reputation management online, this one is often the hardest to convince them to do. During a recent keynote speech, half an hour of my question and answer period centered on this one facet of online reputation management. It’s that controversial. There are a lot of reasons why, but for space considerations, I can only skim some of them. More are covered in-depth in our book Do It Yourself Online Reputation Management.

Purging your online presence doesn’t mean removing yourself from the Internet, but rather it means streamlining your presence for better control. Are you actually utilizing that Myspace account, for instance? Should it be deleted? Maybe it has 3,000 friends, but if it’s of dubious value to your reputation and is rarely updated, it’s probably more of a liability than a help. Likewise, having 8,000 Facebook friends might seem great for your marketing, but are those people really people? How many of them do you actually interact with?

Oprah has hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers. How many of them does she actually talk to regularly? Is she the one really talking to them, or does she have a PR person just for Twitter? Can you afford to hire someone to reliably run your Twitter or Facebook accounts? Would it be worth it?

Your online presence can only work for you and keep your reputation clear if it’s well-maintained and streamlined to the task you wish it to perform. If your presence is all about marketing, then you’ll have very different goals than if it’s just about connecting with friends and family and occasional colleagues. Know your goals and keep your accounts tailored to them. This means purging the extraneous friends, information and accounts you might have.

5. Surf Like a Ninja
This last one is often the easiest for people to grasp and the fasted to adopt. Everything you do on the Internet can be tracked. That’s not paranoia, it’s just how it is. There are few regulations covering how information you might post online (including your surfing history and habits) can be used. Your photos on Facebook, your signup information on Gowalla, and your Web browser’s history itself might all be public information being traded between marketing groups.

So take steps to minimize your exposure and keep as much of this information as possible to yourself. The tools are all easily found and basically free. Use a good anti-virus tool, obviously, to keep your computer clear, even if you are running a supposedly “safe” system like Mac or Linux. On top of that, use stealth tools to keep your browser history locked down (or cleared), your visiting information hidden (such as with an IP mask), etc. Tools for all of this are easy to install, automated, and freely available.

If you take these five steps in stride and incorporate these habits into your normal routine online, you’ll find that your reputation will not only be more in your own control, but more easily managed as well. Even if you don’t do business online, your online reputation can be important and will only become more so in the future as more and more of our lives go online.

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