4 Practices that Can Damage Your Online Reputation

The Internet offers a plethora of tools that assist people in their endeavors to connect, communicate, and create. Although it provides these benefits, the web is also a place where nothing can truly be forgotten. Social media sites like Facebook chronicle and store years’ worth of data and pictures, while review websites like Yelp allow customers a public forum to air personal grievances about businesses. Simultaneously, popular news outlets often dominate the front page of search results, broadcasting articles to a larger audience than ever before and keeping the past indefinitely warehoused online.

When nearly anything can end up on the Internet, people often find themselves the inadvertent architects of their own negative online reputations. This can affect their personal relationships, as well as their careers. While there are steps you can take to improve your online image, prevention is the best way to build the foundation for a positive online reputation. Avoid the following four practices, which can have a lasting negative influence on how you’re perceived online.

Taking an “off the grid” approach

nature guy off gridThe Internet is an integral resource that people of all ages use to learn about businesses and individuals. When faced with a question or problem, many people’s first impulse is to turn to Google to find the information they need, or to locate a professional who can provide a solution to their problem.

If you refrain from developing a presence on the Internet, you’ll be at a distinct disadvantage in today’s business world. Companies without an online presence are often seen as unestablished, antiquated, or even unreliable. Having no reputation can be as bad as having a negative one, and can cost you customers, income, and the potential for growth.

Individuals without a strong online presence can suffer the same consequences as businesses—you might be overlooked by potential employers as behind the times, or because the employer could not find enough information about you to justify an interview. Additionally, not having a presence online will prevent you from knowing when people are talking about you. In this case, you’ll already be at a major disadvantage in defending yourself against slander or false claims.

Responding angrily to comments and reviews

The anonymity that comes with using a computer helps many people feel more comfortable sharing their opinions, but the drawback is that their opinions are not always positive or polite. Although angry rants and bitter complaints about you or your business can make your blood boil, it’s important to keep your emotions in check when responding.

For businesses, responding to a review or comment from a frustrated customer must be done with finesse. These instances are when it’s most necessary to demonstrate your commitment to professionalism by responding in a calm, confident manner. Customer satisfaction should be your goal.

For individuals, acting disrespectfully toward others on social media can damage the way that you’re seen by your colleagues, employers, and other influential people. Many people have lost their jobs due to inconsiderate or offensive posts on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Posting or being tagged in compromising photos

woman funny compromising photoThe photos of you on the Internet have a direct correlation with how you’re perceived by others, both online and in real life. While privacy settings on social media sites afford users some control over which pictures are public, there is no guarantee that all photos of you—especially those posted by others— will remain concealed from potential employers or customers. And the more people use social media, the more professional and personal relationships converge on the Internet, potentially bringing your private life into contact with your professional life.

Posting pictures that display unprofessional aspects of your life can make finding employment difficult, and businesses can lose the respect and patronage of customers. Additionally, it can discourage other professionals or businesses in your industry from working with you.

Ignoring false or abusive content

For those companies and individuals who have already been hurt by negative information posted about them online, a common mistake is thinking that this content cannot be removed. While there are legal guidelines that dictate which content must be taken down by law and which can only be removed at the discretion of the author, the best action in the interest of your reputation is to reach out and ask.

While articles published by newspapers are notoriously difficult to have removed in their entirety, false or misleading information released within the article can sometimes be corrected or retracted if a business or individual can provide evidence that a claim is false.

Additionally, you can petition to remove information from websites that don’t belong to a news outlet if the post contains information that is untrue or considered harassment. Content posted on social media sites is frequently accompanied by links that allow you to report it to the website with the click of a button. Sites like Facebook are known for refusing to tolerate bullying, and may accommodate an individual’s request to have pictures or posts that defame them removed.

Ultimately, however, some content is online to stay, and the best option is to take steps to counteract any negative search results under your name. In these instances, it may be in your best interest to hire a private firm to assist you in taking back control of your online reputation.

4 Online Reputation Management Tips for Job Seekers

While the Internet has granted job seekers the ability to apply for a wide variety of positions nearly anywhere around the world, it has also required them to monitor how they are viewed online. Recruiters and hiring managers are increasingly using search engines to identify and screen potential candidates.

Job seekers now need to take charge of and maintain control over their online reputation in order to secure the careers that they want. Below are four tips for cultivating the positive online image that can give you a better chance of landing your dream job.

Be an active social media user.

Your social media profiles play a significant role in the way that you are perceived by potential employers, who pay special regard to sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. When a recruiter types your name into a search engine, your profiles on these sites are likely to show up on the first page of results, so it is important to make sure that the information on these sites is in line with the way that you want to be perceived by potential employers. Uploading professional photos that clearly show your face on a site like LinkedIn may also increase your chance of earning an interview, as employers tend to give more credibility to fully completed profiles. Additionally, associating a face with your work history may increase your personal appeal.

Job seekers who opt out of social media may find themselves at a disadvantage. According to a survey collected by CareerBuilder.com in 2015, over a third of employers stated that they are less likely to grant an interview to candidates lacking an online presence. Not having a presence on the web can signal to companies that you are disconnected from modern technology, or make them wonder if you have something to hide.

Research and remove negative content.

social media treeBefore applying for a job, it’s helpful to know what a potential employer will see when he or she performs a Google search of your name. Search for yourself on Google and other search engines ahead of time, and assess whether your online reputation needs some polishing. Though most recruiters won’t investigate past the first page of search results, it’s useful to scan the second page for negative content as well, as items on page two may eventually end up on page one.

If you find that your online reputation doesn’t reflect you positively, it’s important to take steps to curate and improve your image so that it reflects the professional persona you want to project. Remove unbecoming photos, comments, or content that you have posted, and delete photo tags that link you to images that are not in line with your personal brand. Additionally, it’s a good idea to go through your friend lists, likes, and follows on social media platforms to make sure they reflect you in a positive light.

While you may not be able to remove content that you did not post yourself, contacting a site to inquire about the removal of negative content may yield positive results. Although news outlets and other sites may refuse, you can appeal to the site owner by sending a polite email asking him or her if it would be possible to remove the content. Explain that you’re looking for a job, but do not make demands or threats. Certain material may be online to stay, but defamatory comments or information that jeopardizes your security can be removed with the help of a professional.

Practice a defensive reputation management strategy.

Regardless of whether you have a positive or negative online reputation, it’s a good idea to act defensively in order to maintain image control over the long term. As a job seeker, you can begin by ensuring that you’re utilizing the maximum privacy settings on all social media profiles and by being selective about what you make public. Though privacy settings will not provide complete protection, limiting what strangers and potential employers can view about your personal life is a good way to help control your image.

Additionally, giving thought to what a social media post will communicate about you to others is a good defensive ORM strategy. Before posting a picture, comment, or other update, take a moment to ask yourself if it matches the image that you want to curate. Consider how you would feel if a potential employer saw it. In general, make a habit of avoiding posts that contain vulgar or inflammatory language and refrain from engaging in online disputes, as both practices are seen as unprofessional.

Even if you’ve determined that your online reputation reflects you positively, remember that monitoring your web presence is still important. Even after securing a job, regularly assessing your online reputation will make you better prepared for the future. Using tools like Google Alerts is also a simple way to find out when your name is being mentioned online.

Take control of your image through brand building.

One of the best ways to make yourself look better to potential employers is through online brand building. Consider authoring a blog on a professional topic relevant to your career. Through a blog, you can build a positive web reputation while also showing potential employers your technological literacy and industry knowledge. Updating biographies and work histories to include industry keywords on a site like LinkedIn can also increase their relevance in your search results and strengthen your professional online brand.

Additionally, search engine algorithms tend to weigh the words within a URL as highly relevant to search results, and are likely to place sites that have your name in their URL at the top of your results page. Take advantage of this fact by purchasing a domain that includes your first and last name and using it as a place to showcase yourself. Information on this website could include examples of your work, your resume, a summary of your professional history, and a biography. Taking the time to create a website that provides prospective employers with all this information in one place shows extra effort and allows you more control over how others perceive you.

4 Questions to Ask about Your Company’s Online Reputation

For businesses of all sizes, establishing a strong online reputation can yield a variety of benefits, such as increased brand exposure, more customers, and exclusive market insights. Being active on the Internet as a business also encourages customer trust while affording you higher degree of control over your company’s branding.

It is important for business owners to put some effort into their company’s Internet image in order to ensure they’re making the most of this invaluable marketing tool. To assess your business’ online reputation, ask yourself the following questions about the way your company is viewed online.

Do customers see my company responding to online reviews?

social iconsAre you committed to providing your clients with quality products and services? Do your review pages reflect that commitment? The power of the customer review is now stronger than ever, and platforms like Google+ and Yelp allow customers to shape how your business is perceived through star ratings and written evaluations. Don’t discount these sites—recent studies have shown that people are more heavily influenced by reviews and testimonials than by traditional marketing strategies.

Because of this, it is crucial for companies to pay attention to the reviews they receive on the Internet. If you are not actively monitoring and responding to comments made about your business on various review sites, it can leave you vulnerable to a negative online reputation. Additionally, neglecting to respond to positive or negative comments from your customers may cause your business to appear callous and indifferent to customer satisfaction. Even if your response doesn’t placate an angry customer, it communicates to others that you care.

Are my company’s social media profiles engaging?

Can clients visit your business’ social media pages and see that you put time and effort into developing your web presence? Fully optimizing your business’ social media sites is a simple way to make your company look current and engaged with your customer base. Businesses that don’t have an account on key platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are missing the chance to humanize their image, earn a higher degree of brand loyalty, and generate more inbound traffic to their official websites.

Activity on multiple social media sites is useful, but businesses don’t necessarily need to maintain accounts on every site in order to have a good social media presence. Start by identifying the websites and applications that will give your business access to the greatest number of potential customers. Then, focus your energy on being as present and responsive as possible on these platforms.

How does my company’s online reputation compare to my competitors’?

Have you given potential customers a reason to choose your business over others? Your competitors’ reviews can help your company gain a useful advantage with a quick bit of research. Check the competition’s reviews to determine what customers do and do not enjoy about the company’s services before comparing their practices with your own. Looking at positive reviews of a competing company may also make you aware of service gaps that you need to address in order to improve your product or service. In addition, noting the competition’s negative reviews may help you avoid similar mistakes or reaffirm your commitment to the good practices you have implemented that your competitor has not.

Businesses owners should also look at their competition’s online presence in order to determine what needs to be done in order to gain an advantage in exposure, customer interaction, and brand appeal. Does your competition have a thriving presence on social media, but no blog on their own website? Are other companies producing content, but in an unappealing form? Determine the areas where competing businesses are coming up short online, then consider what you can do to fill the gap and position your company as the more modern and professional-looking option.

Is there anything I can do to improve my company’s online reputation?

Is your first page of search results on Google free from negative content? Even if it is, you can still take steps to improve your company’s online reputation by preparing for the future. Developing original, informative content and regularly posting it to a blog, asking for reviews from satisfied customers, and continuing to maintain your social media presence all go a long way toward safeguarding you against any negative press that the future may bring. The stronger your online presence is now, the more difficult it will be for damaging content to affect you in the future.

If your online results are not of the caliber that you want them to be, following a similar course of action can also help generate more positive search results on your first page. However, if your company receives bad press that can’t be mitigated, companies that specialize in reputation management can be hired to find ways to minimize or suppress the damage.