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.