Do you ever feel like somebody’s watching you? Guess what? They are. If you post, tweet, check-in, poke, ping, plan cast, forecast, or otherwise share anything online, you’re putting it all out there for the world to see. The question is, how comfortable are you with what others will find when they stalk you online?
Now, this isn’t a post about protecting your privacy online – sure, that’s important, but there are better resources for that. This post focuses on how to audit your personal brand online, and what you can do to better promote yourself (or your clients) online.
Sound like fun? Well queue up some music (might I suggest Rockwell’s classic “Somebody’s Watching Me“?) and let’s dive right in…
Go Search Yourself
For starters, people are searching for you online. Just in case you’re in denial, I want to make this clear. They’re searching for you. It might be recruiter Bob trying to fill a job, or it could be all your exes that live in Texas. The point is, there are searches for your name every day. There were more than 1,000 searches last month for “Jeremy porter”. How many people are searching for you? Do you know what comes up in those searches? Well, what are you waiting for? Google yourself. Put your name in quotes to get more accurate search results.
Did you do it? Only look at the first three pages of search results (people rarely look beyond that, so these are the most important pages). Only you know whether or not the right stuff comes up when you search your name.
What Should They See?
You’ll probably want your LinkedIn profile to show up on the first page of search results. This will cover your bases on professional searches, providing potential employers with background on your work experience (same goes for freelancers). Your LinkedIn profile should be 100% complete – and it should be up-to-date. Bonus points if you have a status update this week.
If you work in a marketing-related field (and I’d suggest it extends beyond this category), you should have some form of social media presence (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, a blog, etc.). You should have recent status updates and posts. If you share your party pictures with friends on Facebook, learn about the privacy settings of Facebook and protect your account (or don’t share them, to begin with).
Bonus points if you have an About. Me, Tumblr, or Posterous personal site show up in search results (or any relevant emerging social media platform). Triple bonus if you have a YouTube channel or video blog (that stuff takes a lot of work).
What If You Don’t Have That Stuff?
If you don’t show up in search results for your name, or you don’t like what shows up when you search your name (e.g., those party pictures), here are some steps you can follow to alter your fate:
- Buy Yourself – If you don’t own your name as a domain yet, buy it. You probably won’t be able to get .com or .net, but .me or .name are perfectly acceptable. If you have a common name, consider using your full name (first, middle, last). You should also take advantage of vanity usernames on the social media sites you use. Register your name on Twitter and set your username on Facebook. Use a service like Namechk to see what other accounts are available for your name.
- Use It – If you’re pretty handy with the web, consider putting up a personal blog or website at your name. A much simpler solution is to set up a Tumblr site – you can map your domain name for free (www.yourname.com) and start blogging within 30 minutes. Another option is to register a Blogger blog. Google’s Blogger service tends to show up higher in search results than other blogging platforms I’ve used. While I can’t confirm it, it sure looks like they give priority to their blogging platform when they’re tied to a person.
- Blog – As an extension to the last point, it’s a good idea to blog (for a lot of reasons beyond vanity searches). If you blog at your domain name a couple of times per month, you’ll start to see your posts show up in search results. Write interesting and intelligent posts and you’ll start to paint a picture of who you are and what you’re all about. I’ve done hundreds of blog posts for Journalistics, and a lot of them show up in searches (that’s a good thing, right?).
- Link – Link to your name from other reputable sites. Comment on blog posts on a regular basis? Use your vanity URL (www.yourname.com) to link back to your page or blog. Just don’t do it for the link value – a comment is a great opportunity for you to share your expertise and opinions. In a lot of cases, the link from blog comments doesn’t count towards SEO anyway (but you may still drive traffic to your site, which will help). Take advantage of the links section of your Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook profiles and link to your vanity URL. When given the option to label your link, don’t call it “my blog” or “my website”, call it your name. In other words, “your name” links to www.yourname.com. These are called inbound links and they help the pages that you link to show up higher in search results (link your name to a site about you, and eventually that site about you will show up when people search your name).
- Share Stuff – Depending on what type of message you want to send about who you are and what you do, think strategically about what you share on social networks. I’m not suggesting you be fake, but be smart. If you’re interviewing for a job, you might want to limit your 3AM weeknight check-ins or anything that could give a new contact that wrong idea. On Twitter, I tend to share links to stories I find interesting – usually current events or trends in marketing, PR, journalism and social media. On LinkedIn, I’ll periodically share insight into what I’m working on – or I’ll answer some questions in a Group (or the Answers forum).
These are just a few tips I thought of off the top of my head. Obviously, there are ways to make the bad stuff go away. If you have an issue with reputation management online – and your last name is NOT Weiner, Anthony, or Schwarzenegger, let me know and I’ll give you some specific advice.
The golden rule for living in an increasingly online world is only to share stuff you would want your mom, dad, neighbor, or teacher to see… because there’s a very good chance they will.
Oh, and yes, that is Michael Jackson singing background vocals in that Rockwell song.