Nothing is more important in today’s world of social networking and Web 2.0 than your online reputation. Dipping a toe into that pool for the first time can be intimidating. Millions of people use Social Media outlets, blogs, social networking and bookmarking sources on a daily basis – not only to discuss products, services and brands, but to share their experiences with others. If you’re not actively monitoring and managing your online reputation, you’re falling behind countless individuals and companies that already are.
Knowing what is being said about you online is essential, whether from a personal or business standpoint. More and more employers and prospective customers use the Internet to research a people and products by name, rather than simply relying on a resume, online profile or company website for information.
If you’re looking for a job, chances are anyone considering you for employment will Google you long before contacting you about a position. If you don’t know what publicly accessible information exists, you are doing yourself a great disservice. One of the best things you can do to manage your own reputation is start your own blog and make sure it ranks well when someone uses your name in a keyword search.
Free Reputation Monitoring Tools
Google offers a free service called “Google Alerts” (google.com/alerts) that will help you learn more about the conversations going on about you or your brand online. While the information is useful, it is very basic and doesn’t provide a great deal of detail – nor does it include everything that may exist about you online. That said, it should be first on your “to-do” list when working to monitor your reputation online.
Setting up a Google Alert couldn’t be easier – simply access your Google account and follow the “Alerts” link in the administration page. If you’re managing your personal reputation, you will obviously want to set up an alert for your name (and for any variations of it that may be used when people mention you).
If you’re hoping to learn more about what the world is saying about your business, you will want to set up an alert for the name of your business – as well as your specific product names and/or the services that you offer. Yahoo! offers a similar service, not surprisingly called “Yahoo! Alerts” (alerts.yahoo.com).
Creating Custom RSS Feeds
You can also monitor your online reputation on sources like Technorati, Yahoo! News, Google News and BlogPulse by setting up RSS feeds that will deliver results directly to your RSS reader of choice. Technorati, for instance, allows you to set up “Watchlists” for selected terms. These terms could be your name, your company, your brand, your products or anything else you want to keep tabs on. You can then subscribe to your own watchlists via RSS.
BlogPulse offers a similar service, called “Search the Blogosphere”, which you can then subscribe to and receive updates via RSS. That way you don’t need to take the time to log in and search manually on a daily or weekly basis – the results are delivered to your RSS reader automatically. Yahoo! and Google News provide the same ability to set up RSS feeds.
Monitoring Social Media Sources
Using Social Media monitoring is also essential. With the rise of Social Media, Internet users now have an unprecedented platform for sharing their experiences, thoughts and opinions with millions of other users whenever the urge strikes them.
We can communicate with each other in ways that were never possible before Social Media and networking sources like Twitter, StumbleUpon, Digg, Facebook and YouTube. We are able to connect with one another on a real-time basis – sharing our experiences, making recommendations and exchanging information on an enormous scale. I highly recommend using Twitter’s search feature (search.twitter.com) on a regular basis to keep tabs of real-time conversations going on about you, your company, your brand or your products and services.
Most popular Social Media sources use what are called “tags”. When a user writes a review or a post or carries on a discussion, they include what are called tags that identifies what the information is in reference to. My favorite tag search service is called Keotag and it tops my list because it provides access several to Social Media and networking sources on one easy to use platform.
Like Techorati and Blogpulse, Keotag allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds for the tags and sources you choose. Blog Catalog also offers a new “Social Search” feature that you can use to search for mentions of your selected terms (your name, your brand, your products, etc.) across a variety of Social Media and networking outlets like Twitter, StumbleUpon and Facebook.
Paid Online Reputation Monitoring
It’s important to mention that in addition to the free services mentioned above, there are a variety of paid services you can subscribe to that will help you monitor your online reputation and keep tabs on where your name and/or brand are mentioned on the Internet. Services, like Trackur and Reputation Defender, provide a great deal more detail, control and flexibility over monitoring your reputation.
It’s important to understand that monitoring your reputation is very different from managing your reputation. Monitoring, meaning simply knowing what is being said, is a passive strategy. It is equally important, if not more so, to take an active role in developing your online reputation.
Take an Active Approach to Your Online Reputation
There are seemingly innumerable resources out there that you can use to promote what you want people to know about yourself or your business. Social networks are a great way to manage your reputation and increase your presence online and in the search results. If someone were to search for you by name or for your company by brand, what information would they find? You have more control over that than you might think.
Take LinkedIn, for instance. LinkedIn is a networking tool for professionals. Many believe that LinkedIn is little more than an online resume, but it is much more than that. LinkedIn is a powerful tool for creating an online presence for yourself and your company by utilizing a variety of applications, creating a network of “connections” and obtaining recommendations from those you and your company have worked with over time. LinkedIn also performs well in search results in major search engines, giving you and your company more exposure in search results.
There are a large number of ways to increase your presence in search results and actively manage your online reputation. Keep in mind that the more Social Media and networking profiles you create, the more likely they are to show up in the search results for your name or your company name. To look at it in a different way, if someone has said something negative about you online it may be important for you to try to bury that information further down in the search results so it isn’t among the first things to grab a search users attention.
Furthermore, the more results there are for your name or company name in the search results, the more reputable and reliable you or your company will seem to the person searching – and the less significant a negative comment will seem. As Web 2.0 continues to evolve into Web 3.0, Web 4.0 and Web 999.0, it will be essential to have profiles on as many sources as possible, as you never know where someone might be searching for you or your company.
In addition to creating your own website and/or blog, you should create profiles and accounts using sources like MyBlogLog, Squidoo, Twitter, VisualCV, Google Profiles (which you set up through your Google account admin page), Digg, Fark, Mixx and many more. If you’re not sure where to start, I recommend checking out Social Marker where you will find a list of some of the most widely used and popular social bookmarking and networking websites available today. It certainly isn’t an all-inclusive list, but it is a great place to start for someone venturing into the realm of Social Media, networking and bookmarking for the very first time.