Why Online Reputation Management Is More Important Than Ever

reputation-managementDo you monitor your online reputation?

Some time ago, we explained why a freelancer’s online reputation is important to their business. Those points are still valid. In fact, there’s now more information than ever about each of us online.

Yet, judging from the comments I see almost daily on social media sites and on blogs, I am guessing that many freelancers have become lax about managing their online reputation (or image). Or, it’s possible that some freelancers just don’t understand the importance of having a good online reputation.

In this post, we’ll explain what makes up your online reputation. We’ll also explain why managing your online image is more important than ever. Finally, we’ll invite you to share your own tips for managing your online reputation.


What Makes Up Your Online Reputation

One reason that some freelancers don’t manage their online reputation is that they really don’t understand what makes up their online image.

Your online image is NOT just your blog and your professional portfolio website. There is much more to it.

In a nutshell, your online image is made up of everything about you that exists online. The range of materials that could potentially impact your online reputation is broader than you might realize at first. Here are just some components of your online image:

  1. Comments you make on social media such as Twitter or Digg
  2. Images you share on Flickr or Facebook
  3. Videos you share on YouTube and elsewhere
  4. Posts and articles you publish online with your byline
  5. Comments you make on other people’s blog posts, articles, and on message boards
  6. Geolocation information that you broadcast through services like foursquare and Gowalla
  7. Comments that others make about you in social media or in blog posts
  8. Images of you that others publish on social media

Even what you say in an email or through instant messaging could potentially be copied and made public.

In fact, if you’re beginning to feel like virtually anything that you do on the Internet could become part of your online reputation, then you’re starting to get the picture.

Why Your Online Reputation Is Important

What you once thought was your private online information may not really be as private as you thought. Some sources, such as TechCrunch report that some Facebook statuses will appear in Google’s search results. Also, Twitter made a deal with Google regarding tweets over six months ago. (Via Mashable) Other search engines are pursuing, or have reached, similar agreements with social media sites.

What does all this mean to you as a freelancer?

Potentially, it could mean a great deal to you and to your freelancing business. It could mean that if a client searches on your Twitter or Facebook user name they will see anything and everything that you’ve tweeted recently or included in your status.

Have you been griping about your client on Facebook? Did you complain about your heavy workload to your Twitter followers? Have you bashed a colleague?

Your rants could be out there, clearly visible to any and all of your potential clients. Naturally, if they find your complaints about other clients (or colleagues) they may wonder if you will say the same types of things about them. Trust me, a lack of professionalism on your part will not make a good first impression.

Plainly put, having a bad online reputation can kill your potential freelance business without you ever hearing a peep from a prospective client or having the chance to say a single word in your own defense.

How to Effectively Manage Your Online Reputation

Of course, there are companies who will charge you good money to professionally clean up your tainted online image after the damage has already been done. Some of these services may even be quite effective.

However, the best way to manage your online reputation is to be proactive about it.

Don’t publish material or make comments online that could be offensive or viewed negatively. If a friend publishes a questionable photo of you, ask them to take it down. Regularly conduct searches on your own name, your business name, and any of our social media user names to see what appears.

A general rule of thumb is to view any communication that you make online as a business communication. Be professional and positive in everything you do and say online.

What Do You Think

Do you monitor your online reputation? What steps do you take to ensure that you have good online image?

Have you ever refused to do business with a company or an individual because of something you saw about them online? (No names, please.)

Tell your stories and share your online reputation management tips in the comments.

Comments

  1. says

    It also makes sense to set up a Google Alert for your name and company name. That way, you are alerted when anyone says something about you.

    You can find the positives and aid the negatives, almost in real time.

  2. says

    Very interesting article in regards to a freelancer’s online persona. I suppose a persona could be faked, or could be a real accurate description of your life and encompass you as a whole not just business.

  3. says

    Thanks everyone!

    Hi Jordan–you do bring up an interesting point about fake personas. However, it’s important to remember that nearly everything can be traced these days. Even a fake persona could likely be linked back to you. Of course, the best way to do freelance business is to be transparent and open–so, hopefully most freelancers won’t have to worry about personas. :-) Good comment, though.

  4. says

    Josepha–great suggestion about setting up a Google alert. That automates reputation management. Of course, you may want to alternate that with a few manual approaches on Social Media sites that aren’t fully searchable by Google.

  5. says

    Social Media sites that aren’t fully searchable by Google.
    => Fortunately! It would be really hard to control his reputation otherwise.

  6. says

    My online reputation was sunk many years ago. Too many snarky articles have found their way online including my most recent piece ripping apart a certain press release.

    Then again, I’m still having fun….

  7. says

    Hi Matt Keegan!

    Thanks for your comment. I’m very sorry to hear about your online reputation, but it sounds like at least you’re enjoying what you’re doing. That’s something to be appreciated…

  8. says

    This topic is exactly why I feel the world is continually getting “better” while most people around me feel it is going to shit.

    The reason I feel the future is bright as hell, is because we have so much forced “self awareness” online. In the past, all the “great minds” had to make a conscious effort to live an examined life, now days we don’t have a choice. Anything we do, can be scrutinized, critiqued and judged.

    I see this as a wonderful thing, because I am getting immediate feedback on the work I am doing and the way I am presenting myself. It is my choice on what I want to put out there.

    By being forced to examine our lives, we get the ability to make conscious choices, which puts the power to create our reputations in our hands. This is a great thing!

  9. says

    Great reminder article. I’ve always tried to create and keep a good reputation on and off the big ol’ WWW, but sometimes you just can’t control what others say about you. In that case, it’s even more important to have a good reputation so that the occasional insult or put down will be out of place because people will already know you for who you are.

  10. says

    Excellent post. So true Laura.

    Setting up a google alert with your name and your business name is a great way to easy track what kind of information is being broadcasted about you online.

    Social Mention and Addictomatic are also great tools for social media monitoring.

    There’s also a new app out, Workstreamr that allows you to monitor what is being said about your company across multiple platforms.

  11. says

    >>Do you monitor your online reputation?

    No.

    >>What steps do you take to ensure that you have good online image?

    I don’t mind what other people think of me. Its a waste of my time.

    >>Have you ever refused to do business with a company or an individual because of something you saw about them online?

    No.

    >>My opinion…

    Naturally, humans have biases and opinions of themselves and of others. We’re social so word spreads regardless.

    Balding men want their hair back so they do something about it.
    Women want bigger breasts so they go to a cosmetic surgeon.
    Athletes want a competitive edge so they use steroids.

    Remove the internet from the subject and go back down to the root argument:

    Do you care what other people think about you?

    The more you care, the more you must subscribe to the service of caring. For every subscription you add, it gets expensive.

  12. says

    Great comments everyone!

    Mike Roberts–That’s an interesting perspective that you have there. I’m not sure where the quote is from, but I have heard it said that an unexamined life is not worth living. Still, I’m not sure I’m convinced that the web is taking us in that direction, but it’s possible…

    Leslie A. Joy, Great advice. Thanks for mentioning the monitoring tools. :-)

    Jae Xavier, The decision to not monitor your reputation is certainly a valid one as long as you make it deliberately and understand all that it entails.

  13. says

    @Jae, I admire what you wrote. To truly not care what people say about you, can be a wonderful way to live and do business. It is a very attractive quality.

    I think a person can be “successful” (however that person defines success) doing things either way:

    1) Listen to what everyone says (within reason) and then cultivate a reputation that reaches your goals in life and in business

    or…

    2) Don’t care what anyone says and do everything “your way” so to speak and attract people to your individuality and uniqueness.

    The ultimate way, I feel, is to be the contradiction. Care about what everyone thinks about you, listen carefully and take it all in…. but at the exact same time, don’t care what anyone thinks, be adamant about doing things your way, and always carve out your own path in life.

    To integrate both of these opposites not common. An example of this contradiction in action is Gary Vaynerchuk. He listens to seemingly everyone (to whatever extent is physically possible), cares about what they have to say, takes in all into consideration… and then goes out and does things his way i.e. whatever way is needed to reach his goals (keeping inline with whatever values he has for himself).

    I also travel this contradictory path, it’s a lot of fun.

    @Laura, everyday online I’m watching babies grow up literally from the delivery room, marriages dissolve and new love found, I know what people eat for breakfast and whether or not they hate their jobs and bosses. I know all this because they tell me and anyone else who is watching on Face Book, Twitter and a million other places.

    For sure there will be consequences to all this open sharing (not good or bad per se ,just results that come from the action of sharing our lives with each other). I think the results will be a surge in self examination. This is already happening with Gen Y (I think that means 20 somethings) and the generations behind them will only know complete awareness of all their words and actions. For those of us who grew up with a certain sense of privacy and individuality these can be frightening thoughts. For these younger generations that I mentioned, this will just be a way of life, they won’t be afraid at all.

    And as hard as some people try to avoid social media, it will not go away and continue to grow rapidly. To not be on these sites is like not having a cell phone, or a car. I have gone without both, but with the understanding that I’m living outside the norms of society (not a good or bad thing at all). To avoid having some kind of presence online is to make a conscious choice to be left behind the current society. Some people may like the idea of not fitting in with society, I have done it in the past and it is quite nice.

    So… I think we are going to be a society full of very self aware, conscious people. Of course, it’s only my point of view! Either way I’m sure the future will be very interesting :)

  14. says

    I’ve have to watch where I show up online because there’s another well-known communicator in the city where I live whose name is almost exactly the same as mine. But she was on TV for several years, so she’s much better known. The last time I Googled myself, I discovered I’m also a mutant comic book hero! :-) I think you need to know what’s out there, but like Jae said, subscribing to caring can be expensive. No one is perfect, and no one can control another person’s posts.

  15. Tara Pelsue says

    Very nice article.

    “The unexamined life is not worth living,” is from Socrates. One of my favorite quotes.

  16. says

    I use Trackur.com from Andy Beal (as do many people and businesses).
    They have a free option, though the paid plans are the best in class
    for the price.

  17. says

    Free speech is actually an oxymoron as it always comes at a price. However, as in all sound institutions free speech will be subject to exploitation. The toll is unreasonable when it must be at the expense of an individual who is spotless.
    Nonetheless, fictitious assertions & libelous onslaughts are often posted by masked low-lifes. Frequently these masked bottom dwellers possess some case of antisocial (called psychopaths in old speak) or another personality disorder, and driven solely by hate & vengeful, asocial urgings. Hurting or controlling others brings them strange satisfaction; they are in fact fueled by the anguish they cause; the victim’s pain drives them. Healthy people like ninety five percent of those reading this story are unable understand what drives these individuals.
    This deplorable social dilemma has become out of control in the preceding ten years in the form of anonymous online e-slander. In instances where judges have ordered that anonymous and self absorbed internet bloggers can be uncloaked to the libel victim, these orders are oftentimes followed by protests by a trivial yet rambunctious party of rabid proponents that deem that free speech should be absolute and a utterer can not be responsible for his/her words, without consideration to the nobility or maliciousness behind the statements. I reckon that should these vocal people were to experience the debilitating consequences of a cowardly anonymous blogger and the physical, vocational, emotional, and social well-being of themselves and their loved ones; they wouldn’t be so zealous in their protests.
    An inherent distinction of anonymous assertions is that it has less credibility when critically assessed by shrewd and open-minded readers. Despite this fact, there is a new dynamic with the challenge of malicious and anonymous bloggers. Although vitriol will appear suspect, when the victim is being considered for a job, consulting applications, Girl Guide leadership (or a date), the person conducting the reference checks needs to look at the potential PR exposure from associating with the victim. Whilst the potential employer might see through the diatribe, the decision maker will need to give weight to what their customers and partners will presume if less sophisticated or open-minded.
    Regards, Michael of Rexxfield

  18. Mark Tinger says

    There are lots of good online reputation companies about. The key is value for money. I found ClydeStan http://www.clydestan.com most helpful in their approach and costing structure. They specialize mainly in celebrity reputation but I am sure they take on other clients, too. It seems they have connections behind the scenes where actual links and posts are being deleted and not only pushed down in search engines. I have used them twice now and the results are just fine. No problems, would recommend anytime.

  19. says

    It is amazing on how important someone’s online reputation is getting. We do a lot of work in Cyber investigations so we get calls when people’s or business reputations are being attacked online.

    The level of emotion that the callers express was amazing when we first got involved. As an example, just hung up with a 20 year business owner (small business) who is about to lose everything over a dispute with a client. The business owner even refunded the person’s money but a few negative comments are just destroying this long time business.

    Same is true for employees. Just try to get a job with negative comments out there when you google your name.

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