Reputation Management is a lot of things in today’s ever-evolving environment. One week I may find myself meticulously providing info for social media accounts for a client who needs to get an undesirable search result lowered while the next week could be almost entirely consumed by research. How we decide to spend our time online really does make a difference when it comes to maintaining one’s reputation in a world where blog entries and other info is published virtually every second of the day. This is why it is important to begin considering preventive Reputation Management sooner rather than later.
As I’ve broken down in earlier articles, technology is quickly heading in the direction of transparency – so much so that the proverbial information train appears to be speeding down a one-way track. Sure, there has been some headway made by privacy groups and other advocates who are concerned with keeping some data offline, but the obvious trend of “information amalgamation” as I like to call it makes it much more probable that previously off-limits data such as birth dates, addresses and some photos will eventually find their way to the Internet and be shared (or purchased) by a multitude of sources. After all, everyone from your personal dentist to your favorite take-out diner likely has you personal data – and this data has a monetary value in many cases. This article will not focus on privacy concerns, but rather how to take preventive measures to limit the amount of unwanted information that will appear online in the future.
Publication of Photos
By now, most of us have begun the practice of publishing photos online – either through some social media service such as Instagram, forums or Facebook, or by entering them on a personal blog. This is all fine and dandy in most cases, but one thing we should consider is the future ramifications of any images someone may deem inappropriate. That great party picture as a teenager may seem like the best thing in the world to share with your friends, yet it could ultimately result in a negative job interview at some point if it is published for all the world to see. This is especially true for social media sites in which the original owner relinquishes his or her right to the content as soon as it is placed on a social media site. That’s right… even if you took the picture you no longer own the image or have exclusive rights over it once it is uploaded to a site such as Facebook or Instagram (you can verify this by reading the Terms of Service published by these websites).
Already, this has led to an uncountable amount of complications for individuals and small business owners who have come to realize that an unflattering photo (often accompanied by an equally damning caption) could result in a formal reprimand at work or even whether a potential employer decides to make a job offer. More and more, companies are hiring out the service of employment agencies or directing their in-house Human Resources departments to engage current and future hires online in an effort to find out more about who is representing them. Of course, this is less likely to have a negative influence on one’s career if he or she is content with an entry-level job, but it can be a much higher consideration for those seeking out executive positions. Papering over someone’s property (and publishing it online) may have seemed like the greatest idea in the world during an inebriated weekend while in college, but can only hurt in the long run. This is why those hoping to one day start their own company or work for a reputable firm should be extremely careful about the content they self-publish online.
Controlling the flow of information from a first-hand perspective is the key to ensuring that data that could one day make your life uncomfortable (and prompt you to contract a RM business) doesn’t get published at all. The same can be said for just about any unflattering photo that someone might consider offensive or unprofessional at some point.
Which brings us to the next part of our article – how to publish online reviews. In the past, many reviewers have made a practice of putting content online that is not thorough and in many cases drags a company, product or service through the mud. Although there is no problem with publishing a negative review of something, you should make an effort to ensure it is complete while giving the reader as much relevant information as possible. Did you have an under par meal experience at a local restaurant? Or perhaps you bought a new camera that didn’t live up to your expectations? If so, you may want to let other readers know about it. However, writing a few lines that reveal your feelings on something may not be the most professional way to go about it. Your opinions should be validated by facts and detailed experiences rather than generically beating down a service or product without anything to back it up. By doing this, you’ll ensure not only that you don’t come across as an online “troll” (a term used to describe those who consistently publish negative content online while coming off as derogatory) and instead make it appear that you are truly concerned with publishing useful information about something.
Placing a review online that simply says that something sucks is not only a bona-fide method for not getting your content shared and liked online, but could also come back to haunt you if you’re looking to improve your personal Authority Ranking in an online search engine. Future consumers who are doing research on a product or service will find it much more helpful if they can relate to what is being published. If you’d like to express your opinion online, the best way to do so is by keeping emotion out of your writing and explaining why you feel positively or negatively about something. Name calling, abusive vocabulary and/or attacking someone rarely have helpful long-term consequences for the author of a review. Keep this in mind before you hit the Publish button on a negative review and you’ll be able to take preventive measures to enhance your online reputation.
Restricting Access To Information
This facet of preventive Reputation Management takes some discipline, but can be vital to those who don’t want to get caught up in a situation where an image gets cross-referenced with an address, telephone number or other personal data. Before you publish content online, consider how it could be used negatively in a future situation before making it available to your circle of friends or professional colleagues.
Content that has been published online may eventually be used for purposes other than those for which it was originally intended, so one should be very wary of ever sending out personal data such as bank account numbers, social security numbers and other vital data –regardless of whether it’s within the contents of an email or given out in an effort to secure a discount on a take-out meal. Database owners are constantly looking to place full names with photos, addresses, driver’s license numbers and more (because it makes the information they possess have more monetary value), so sharing a lot of sensitive data online may simply mean that many will be able to find it in the future. We can go into greater detail about how this happens in a future article, but for the purpose of this write-up, the best thing one can do is to simply control the information that he or she is publishing online before it gets to a point where it can be accessed by the general public.
Now more than ever business is being conducted online – with no signs of the trend slowing down in the near future. Although there were fewer significant ramifications to be concerned about for publishing content online a decade ago, the Internet has quickly evolved into a platform that can affect how our personalities are perceived on a large scale.
Publishing less than flattering images, reviews or other content is generally not a good idea unless you have put in the time to ensure that it will be construed correctly by a future reader. Put some effort into doing your own preventive Reputation Management now and you may find that an ounce of prevention is indeed worth a pound of cure when it comes to immunizing yourself or your business against online fallout.