We are more connected than ever, but that also means we more transparent than ever. Company’s have been worried about their brand integrity forever, so why would it be strange to manage your own?
Taking care of your identity online is an unfortunate chore that we all should have as part of our online habits. It doesn’t take much to discredit your name online, so make sure you are in control of how you are represented, just in case someone wants to help you form that identity in a negative way. This has now happened to multiple friends of mine, so I thought I would post my tips to them for everyone.
Scary cautionary tales – Here are just 3 stories of non-webby people who, because they had such a limited presence online, one small thing made a huge impression:
- DUI in public paper from years ago – many local papers publish their crime blotter sections online now. Wouldn’t you hate an embarrassing evening from 5+ years ago to show up on an employer search?
- Relationship help in forums – Forums are great ways to reach out to the masses for help on problems that you either don’t have anyone to relate to in your face to face networks or you are not comfortable with sharing. But if you were writing about something private about your boyfriend’s hangups, make sure to keep your details private too. (that means the details in that forums profile area too)
- Multiple account holders – be careful how you associate yourself with accounts that have multiple people sharing the same login. I know someone who helped design a site for someone to be nice, associated that site on her portfolio, only to have the site owner drastically change the content to be very questionable after the fact.
- Consistency is the key, use the same bio wherever it makes sense. I have one typed up in a saved sticky note on my computer that I can just cut and paste from when I join a new site.
- Wherever possible, change the generic link location to your real name (i.e. linkedin/in/joipodgorny)
- Use your real name – joipodgorny – as your user name for all profile and sites that you don’t mind your real identity being shown. (some of these sites are listed below)
- Pick a profile picture, name it YOURREALNAME.jpg (i.e. joipodgorny.jpg) and use it in all of your profiles
- Assume EVERYTHING is viewable somehow to someone. This puts the private feeling some web communities foster into perspective and helps you to be aware of what you write before you write it.
- Use tags whenever you can. They help associate your content with keywords that you choose, and give more relevancy to your content.
- Have a list of 2 or more pretend usernames that you can use when you want to go all ninja-secret online.
- The cool thing about the web is how you can try on different identities – take advantage of it. Just remember, the more detailed you are, the more clues to your real identity you give. Even if you don’t give your real name, but you tell your town or favorite local pizza place and a couple other you-centric details in a “secret” identity, people can figure out if they are so inclined.
- You can still have fun online in all of these sites, just remember that what you type and do and post is permanent in many ways. Just think before you hit the enter key. Sharing a virtual 4-leaf-clover with a friend is great in all contexts, but virtual s&m toys may look odd to the clients you forgot you added to your friend list.
- This may sound paranoid, but it’s simply a reality. You don’t have to do any of these thing, you don’t have to do all of them – and there are certainly TONS more ways than this list. But the more you are aware of how you come up online, the more control you have, just in case something were to happen.
Good sites for helping you manage your personal brand identity. (The more you belong to, the more you dictate how you show up from a google search)
Social Networking Sites:
linkedin.com – business social networking site. Put your resume up, recommend people, get answers to business questions.
facebook.com – social networking site
myspace.com – – social networking site
bebo.com – social networking site
friendster.com – social networking site
amazon.com – you can make a wish list of items you want, but it has a profile section
yahoo/msn/google – every free email site has a profile associated with it, fill it out with the info you use on other sites
mashable.com – social networking news site that launched their own social network.
Personal Website/Blog generators – These are great ways to generate content you want about yourself. Not for everyone, but even sporadic posting helps increase the amount of you-authored content about you online. I have a personal blog and a professional blog that I post different content to. Again, choose the site titles accordingly (i.e. this site’s name has MY name, see how I work that? :P)
Microblogging tools – This is a relatively new kind of site. They are like blogs in that you post about yourself, but it’s more like sending a short message into the universe for everyone to see.(they all have 140 character limits, like SMS). There are tons of different ways to use these tools, but if your goal is to increase the you-authored info on the web, these are great tools for that.
Social Bookmarking tools – I personally love these tools as they allow me to keep a running tally of cool sites I find, associated them with tags/keywords, and save them for later. I have used them for years and find myself checking my archives all the time. They are great in the personal brand context too, as if your username on your bookmarks is your name, they can be another source of reference for your name in search results.
Aggregators – This category is more advanced, but certainly helps in flooding search results. They are simply sites that catalog the info on blogs and other sites online. If you log your info into them, they are very good at popping up in search results. There are hundreds of these sorts of sites, I just pulled a few that showed up at the top of some of my friends vanity searches.
Feed distributors – These are services that take your posts on one site and distribute them to other sites automatically, via the RSS feeds associated to that content. I have my twitter set up to post to my facebook status, so I only have to post my updates in one place. (I don’t “have” to post anywhere, but you get my drift. 😛 ) The first 3 are actual sites that manage multiple rss feeds.
Hope this helps. Feel free to post your own tips. Again, it’s not paranoia (unless you make it that way), it’s simply being smart and in control of your own identity.