Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Online Reputation Management – 4 steps to being your own PR department

This is a reprint of an article I recently wrote for Launchpad, a Job Search and Strategy guide published by Chris Perry of CareerRocketeer. Chris was kind enough to ask me to contribute to his book as one of 20 top career experts contributing to this book available on Amazon. It's a great way to sample what some of the most innovative minds in job search have to job seekers can get a wide variety of opinions.

What’s your Online Reputation? Do you manage it? Or does someone else manage what internet searches say about you?
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In today’s interconnected world, chances are that you turn up in Google searches. Also, information about you may be on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace … even if you don’t subscribe to these sites.

A high percentage of hiring companies and recruiters now perform Google and social networking searches on candidates prior to hire, and some search prior to interview. For instance, since 2005 Robert Half, a top 4 international recruiting firm, has required its recruiters to perform a 6-way Google search on all candidates prior to placement.

If a hiring company or recruiter searched for you on Google or social networking sites, do you know what they would find?

Will a search result refer to you, or to someone else with a similar name?

Online Reputation Management is more than just removal (not easy to accomplish) of negative information. A well structured Online Reputation Management plan allows you to promote and control positive information you WANT potential hiring managers to see, allowing you to brand yourself online.

STEP 1: Identify potential negative information

Google yourself by name. Does any information appear that you wouldn’t want your mother or potential hiring manager to see? Does any unflattering information appear about SOMEONE ELSE WITH A SIMILAR NAME AS YOU? Create a spreadsheet of negative results, including Google rank, Google page, source (Google, social networking site, etc), even if that result refers to that trouble maker who shares your name.

STEP 2: Identify positive information

Create a separate section of this spreadsheet with positive Google results (only the ones referring to you), also including Google rank, Google page, and source.

Search at least 10 pages in Google, or further if you still haven’t found a result that actually refers to you. My own name isn’t that common, yet when I first searched it, l was way back on page 15. If you search for me today, you’d see I own the majority of the first page of my name, beating out a famous screenwriter, VP of Sony Gaming, a welterweight boxing champ, a prolific PhD, and a bit actor.

STEP 3: Manage negative information

The easy part is removing negative information from social networks. Facebook (MySpace and Linkedin to a lesser extent) gives you the ability to erase content, to manage who can post content to your profile, and who can view content. On Facebook and MySpace, examine pictures carefully, to take down the bachelor party pics that someone tagged to you. Be careful about Twitter … once you tweet, it’s there for life, searchable into eternity.

You’ll find that it’s also difficult to have Google remove negative results, which might cause you problems if your name is, say, John Dillinger. Instead Google recommends controlling what you can control yourself…move positive information higher than unfavorable results.

I recommend finding or creating positive information, and marketing the positive information in a responsible way (translation: not spam). Your goal is to make sure the information you want your reader to see appears above negative information. If done well, Online Reputation Management moves unflattering information off the first page, moving the good stuff higher up a ranked search.

STEP 4: Create and market positive information

If your inventory of positive information hasn’t returned enough results to push unflattering information back, then create more of it. Even if you’re not a great writer, you can easily create positive information about yourself. Put profiles on social networking sites that brand you positively from the employers’ viewpoint. Social media profile pages are typically rank highly by search engines. Good news - there are many more than just Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. Choose 5-10 Social Networking sites - Today, there are hundreds of social networking sites, so choose carefully. MySpace, though it’s popular, might not be your best choice unless you’re a musician, artist, designer, or someone in the arts. Then again, Linkedin might not work as well for many in the arts.

You can create additional positive information by adding to existing conversation or posts. Look for articles, blogs, groups, and other comments revolving around your industry or profession. If you’ve got a flair for writing, start a discussion, write a blog post or article…the web is starved for content so you can find sites eager to publish your ideas.

If you hate writing, many authors are thrilled if you republish their work…as long as you always ask first, and include a link to the original article (it helps their Google ranking). For the non writers, just put a short comment on the front, and republish on a relevant site or discussion.

In the blogosphere, marketing = republishing. The more you republish, the higher your page ranking will climb. You’ll find you get more push by republishing on popular sites, than on sites with little traffic. On the other hand, smaller sites may be more willing to publish your content than Yahoo. The more links you publish to your content, the higher your favorable content will rise within Google rankings.

Conclusion – Is it worth the effort?
If you pick the right places to publish, and choose a very narrowly defined field, your content can also rise to the top of that field’s rankings on Google. Online Reputation Management can be so powerful when it brands a candidate as a subject matter expert, because it draws employers who seek advice from a thought leader. Wait a second….if you’re looking for a job, aren’t you trying to have more conversations with employers who want your help to make them more money?

This may sound like a lot of work, but candidates put in a lot of work to find opportunities, get interviews, and become a finalist. Why have your opportunities road blocked by Google and Social Networks? Better yet, why not manage the process to so that you can be viewed as a subject matter expert in your field, and have employers contact you?

Online Reputation Management doesn’t have to be a full time job for most of us. This can take anywhere from an hour per week to an hour per day, depending on how popular, or sinister, your name is and how crowded your field is.

Isn’t it worth a few hours per week to control what Google says about you?

From Launchpad, available on Amazon

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Related Articles:
What Job Candidates Can Learn From Tiger Woods
Additional Online Reputation Management resources

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1 comment:

Sam said...

Very basic and simple stuff but I bet they will definitely work. I believe that that is how online reputation management works.