Managing one’s online reputation has become a must. It is absolutely unthinkable for anyone who wants to make a professional appointment to leave a photograph on one’s facebook profile in which he or she is holding a glass of champagne and assuming weird poses (and God knows I came across quite a few counter examples). Many chances are that the person with whom you are about to have an appointment has just gone straight to ‘Google’ your name on the Internet. This is what is called online reputation (or online identity) management (abbreviated ORM), that is to say your image as it is showing online through Internet and social media exposure.
In this article I will list 8 kinds of tools which could help you work on your own online reputation, or check upon other people’s online presence.
- ORM tools #1: metasearch engines (i.e. an aggregator of all search engines) for social media such as http://samepoint.com , will help you check whether you are popular online or not. Samepoint will combine results from various sources such as social networking sites (facebook, mybloglog, linkedin, typepad, wordpress.com, blogger etc.), wikis, bookmarking sites such as delicious and others. I used my own example and I found out my samepoint request could produce up to 1000 results. This is not very surprising in fact, because this is the effect of my online work for the past 15 years. Internet presence takes time to develop, even though impressive results can be obtained very rapidly if you are committed to working on it. What is interesting too is that samepoint shows whether your documents contain ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ keywords. Very few ‘negative keywords’ were found in my case and this is not coming as a surprise either, as it has also been my choice from day one not to communicate online on anything negative or overly critical. Another example of a metasearch social media engine is http://socialmention.com which also deduces a social ranking from the results although it is difficult to relate that ranking to the quality of your work. Social media pundit Guy Kawasaki has reached a ranking of 89/100, and he certainly raises the bar very high given his frantic online activity (Guy has 77,916 followers on twitter as of today),
- ORM tools #2: blog search engines such as technorati or http://blogsearch.google.com make up the second kind of tools which you can use to manage your online reputation. Obviously, the more your write on blogs, including other people’s blogs of course, not just your own, the better your chances to increase your online reputation. Eventually, you will establish the credibility through your writing. For instance, many a CV-related issue in job-seeking can be circumvented in that way (here’s the result of my research on ‘marketing & innovation’ which shows that my blog comes in pole position, just above my Belgian friends from future lab). Thus, writing in blogs can actually position you on top of search engine results without having to pay for anything (this is commonly described as SEO i.e. Search Engine Optimisation), but it also means that you are producing content on a regular basis, not just from time to time,
- ORM tools #3: news search engines such as Google News which are not only scouring the Net for information from newspapers and press releases but blogs too – as long as they have been deemed reliable sources by the Google people. For your blog to be taken into account by Google you would have to go through the manual process of getting your blog registered. Finding the right place for you to submit your URL can be a bit tricky, so here’s the link which will make you save time. Please note that not all blogs are allowed to join the Google News list of reliable sources and that it is a manual process. Within hours of my main blog being accepted by Google News I received a phone call from the people monitoring employee blogs in my company to congratulate me for being registered,
- ORM tools #4:some other search engines look for comments you may have entered on social media sites. http://www.backtype.com for instance, shows a relative low number of comments in my case. This can be explained by the fact that I’m rarely using my own name in comments, even on my own websites and blogs (I prefer to use my brand name so as to enhance the reputation of my website on search engines),
- ORM tools #5: forum search engines. They are a good example is available at bigboards or Google Groups. In my case, little or nothing is showing through search engines for I very rarely go to forums (if I do wish to enter a personal comment on any of them however, I usually don’t enter my name in full for the particular reason that I don’t want it to show. Comments in B2C forums can sometimes be pretty direct and they don’t always provide real value with regard to your online reputation. As to expert forums and technical forums however, they can be very instrumental in publicising your expertise). One thing is worthy of note: comments in forums are online for a very long time, hence the reason why you should be very careful about them. Here’s an anecdote about that: I once entered a comment about Internet set-top boxes on a consumer forum in 1996, which I later regretted, and it took me at least 5 years to make it disappear. In fact in never really disappeared, I merely added more comments on top of that one. Actually, Google Groups will still show comments I made way back 1996, and my former e-mail address – no longer in use fortunately – is also showing through Google. As a conclusion, traces are left everywhere on the Internet, one should be very careful about that,
- ORM tools #6: the next category is micro-blogging search engines such as http://search.twitter.com which scans the most popular micro-blogging engine www.twitter.com. that’s how you can recap on someone’s tweets or even trace those who forwarded or commented on your tweets or blog posts,
- ORM tools #7: this category consists of social network aggregators such as Yahoo’s outstanding Mybloglog social website which enables you to link your blog to others and make friends with other bloggers and promote your articles,
- ORM tools #8: this is the final category of online reputation tools which I’d like to present here, and it is that of people-centric search engines. I would namely recommend http://www.123people.com. One of the biggest issues with social media is that you are entering profile information in all sorts of different places and cannot point people to a single page which merges all this data from various sources and delivers an executive summary. This kind of search engines just does that for you. It will mix all the sources of information from the Internet – including multimedia files – which are related to you and merge them into a mash-up. You can have a look at my own 123people example here. Sometimes results are a bit weird because they show photos of other people which have nothing to do with you. One may actually prefer another tool such as zoominfo which can show more accurate results. In zoominfo, once you have signed up, you will be also able to claim ownership of your profile (through the “reclaim profile” option), which will give you an opportunity to gain control over it. My zoominfo profile can be seen by clicking here.
As a result, you now have evidence that you are leaving traces about yourself all over the Internet. To a large extent, in the past 4 or 5 years (mostly since 2004), social media has even exponentially increased that issue. Now you also have the means – with this very simple toolbox – not just to evaluate your current online reputation but to actually do something about it, as well as communicate positive information about yourself and actually shape your online image.
Down to business now, and remember that there is no erase and rewind button on the Internet!