Sample Section | What You Don’t Know About Social Media CAN Hurt You: Take Control of Your Online Reputation by Kerry Rego

Your Personal Reputation

Some years ago, I was talking to the police chief of a city in Sonoma County, and when he learned what I did for a living, he mentioned that during job interviews, he’d hand the keyboard to the interviewee and ask the person to navigate to his or her Social Media sites and show past behavior. This police department may no longer do this, but the story stuck with me. As a keynote speaker, I talk about this possibility to adults as well as teenagers and this is a point I drive home no matter who is in the audience.

It’s not if someone researches you online, it’s when.

Here are just some of the things that we look at on an online profile that help us make decisions about whether or not we want to hire you, admit you into college, go on a date with you, add you to our network, or use your services:

Your photo
The picture of you with an excessively large beer in your hand isn’t helping anyone. Neither is the picture of your favorite celebrity. I’m also uncomfortable seeing so much of your cleavage. This goes for guns, nudity, skimpy clothing/bathing suits, really old photos that no longer look like you and kissy faces.
Your photo is more than just a way for you to express who you are and what you’re about. It’s the way you are perceived by the world. You can still be unique!

Action: A smiling headshot is the best solution. You can invest in a professional photographer but you don’t need to. Anyone you know with a high quality camera (or a smartphone) can help you get this shot. Pay attention to your background, make sure the lighting is hitting your face rather than behind you, and be aware of your choice of wardrobe. Take shots until you have two or three that you like. Use the same shot in multiple places online because your face is your calling card and people will recognize you based on these images. Upload pictures that your boss/grandma/mom/mentor wouldn’t cringe at seeing. Why? Because the odds are, one of them will see it.

Spelling
Your second grade teacher was right. Spelling matters. I’ve seen a woman who spelled the name of her own company wrong. If you can’t write in a clear, correct, and concise manner, this will give me (and many others) pause about your abilities on a larger scale. Knowing this is your reputation, and the fact that you can’t be bothered to spellcheck or have someone review for errors, tells us it simply isn’t important to you and we infer much from that lackadaisical approach.

Action: Have a trusted person review your profiles for basic spelling, contextual appropriateness, and grammatical errors. This person doesn’t need to use the red pencil approach. Just ask the reviewer to take five minutes to examine it and point out any errors. Pick someone who is known for good communication skills.

Style of communication

Have you ever read a profile for a person who was overly confident? This occurs frequently on LinkedIn, and when a person tries too hard to sound competent, it comes off as cocky. Consider this paraphrased description for a person you may want to hire or work with: “I am a marketing master that dominates all others in the field. You must hire me or your business will fail miserably.” When this one backfires, it reflects so poorly on the writer, the person often can’t recover respect on any level.

Action: This solution is the same as for spelling. Have someone you respect review your profile. Her notes on your style will do wonders for your presentation. Try to listen without becoming defensive.

Damaging information
The information available to us on the web is vast and sometimes negative. If you have enemies or particularly spiteful competitors, they can say anything they want about you on the internet. It’s up to you to know that it’s out there and that there are ways to combat incorrect information.
Several years ago, a realtor who I’ll call Joe Taylor, came to me with a problem. A displeased customer had written a negative blog about Joe’s services years before and Joe was understandably upset that this blog post was still showing up in the number one spot on Google. Before I met with him, I researched him and was unable to find his website. I asked Joe if he had one and he said he did not. In this example, Joe was simply putting up with negativity by sitting back and letting someone else drive his reputation. It didn’t matter if the blog was true or not, if it’s the only information someone finds to go on, this is what they will believe.
My recommendation for Joe was to buy a domain based on his name such as http://www.joetaylor.com and build even a basic website to start with to make sure that when someone looked up his name, his website would be among the top results. The simple act of having one’s own website is very powerful in the eyes of search engines. In addition, I would have had him create his own blog and use a few other tools (see Chapter 4: Strategy and Action Items) to bump that inaccurate blog down the list.
The negative blog had two advantages. One, it was the only information available. Two, the writer chose to use Blogger which is owned by Google. The search engine does heavily promote it’s own content. If you are using any social Google tools, they will make sure it’s visible. Any proactive action on this man’s part would’ve been beneficial. Needless to say, he was looking for a magic solution in the form of paying someone to make the negative blog go away and he didn’t hire me. Sorry folks, it doesn’t work that way anymore. You do have to put in a little effort.

Action: Create your own content to replace the negative information available. See Chapter 4: Strategy and Action Items.
*Bonus issue: If you have a personal email address that is “hottiewithbody@gmail.com” or maybe it’s “smokin420@yahoo.com”, this is doing tremendous damage to your reputation. No one will take you seriously with this kind of communication channel. I normally have to address this with teenagers, but it doesn’t hurt to tell you as well. In the next section, I address owning your own domain name, and I recommend that if you purchase your own domain, that you set up an email address based on it.
Examples: kr@kerryrego.com or kerry@kerryrego.com.

Duplicate names
I personally know of at least two people who share a name with a performer in the porn industry. One is an actress that, upon arriving at an audition, was told by a casting director that they almost didn’t call her in after what they found during an internet search. The only reason she got the audition is because the adult performer was of a different race than her, and it was easy to tell from the pictures available online that they were different people. The average person will see something like that and run the other way.
When I looked up the name Susan Smith, how many results did I find? Oh, only 68,700,000. But there are ways to help those looking find the right Susan!

Action: Perform a vanity search on your name to see if there are others who share it. Make sure you own your name in the form of a domain, such as http://www.yourname.com. If that isn’t possible, try variations of your name like adding your middle name or initial. You can try adding your industry, such as using http://www.yournameplusindustry.com. For Susan it might be http://www.SusanSmithSpeechPathology.com. You could even do it by location, such as http://www.SusanSmithSanDiego.com. You can own multiple domains and point them all to the same website, if you like, so buy as many as you can if your name is common.
When there are pictures uploaded of you on the staff page of your website, on your profile bio, or other locations, make sure the picture file is your name. When your name is searched on the internet, image files come up in those searches, and it will help those who don’t know you differentiate you from others with your same name.
There are many places to purchase domains. These are just a few of them:

 

Ready to read the rest? You can get your paperback edition or e-reader version here: Kerry Rego Consulting Books