Do you know what people are saying about you online? Everyone, but especially prominent people, needs to be aware of how people view them on line. And unless you know what people are saying, there will be nothing you can do to manage your online reputation.
This is especially true for people who are directors of other organisations. Directors represent their organisations. A director with a bad reputation will affect the reputation of their organisation, potentially with disastrous effects.
And what is true for a prominent person is equally true for any organisation that wishes to maintain public trust.
There are four things you need to do in order to manage your online reputation:
Prevent is about stopping people from creating prominent online content that pretends to be about you and thus hijacking your identity.
Monitor is about listening to what people are saying about you online: if you don’t listen then you won’t be able to respond to what people say.
Profile is about making sure your online profile is as prominent as possible: that way you will be making if difficult for someone else to create a false profile that is more prominent than your true profile.
And Mend is about what you can do if someone does create a hostile profile which starts to gain credibility and prominence.
I will take a look at each of these in turn. In this post I will cover some things you can do to prevent people hijacking your identity.
The first thing to do is to make it harder for people to hijack your identity. People can hijack your identity in two ways.
- They can break into your existing social media accounts and take them over.
- And they can set up false social media profiles in your name.
I have covered social media account security in a separate post so here I am going to cover off some of the things you can do to stop people creating fake online identities.
One of the easiest things to do is to make sure you have registered all relevant URLs. If your company or brand is called “Supa Snax” you will want to register as many important and relevant URLs as are available. If you are based in the UK then SupaSnax.co.uk, Supa-Snax.co.uk, SupaSnax.com, and Supa-Snax.com would be ideal (if they are available of course).
It is sensible to register the .org, .info, .biz and .net versions as well. And look out for relevant new “TLDs” like, in the Supa Snax case, .cafe and .catering.
Unless you are a giant corporate, there is little point in going overboard and registering everything though. There are over 200 endings to choose from (see http://www.onlydomains.com/new-gtlds) and you could end up spending a disproportionate amount of time and money managing them.
If you are a prominent individual, you should consider registering URLs for your name in three forms: initial and surname, first name and surname and first name, hyphen and surname (jsmith, josmith and jo-smith). You will want a similar set of TLDs to organisations: .co.uk, .com, and .info together with .name and .me and any other relevant TLDs such as .actor or .author
Ordinary individuals (like me!) don’t normally need to bother with any of this although there is never any harm in having a resume or a little personal site under a .me address.
Organisations (and people who have been subject to personal abuse on line in the past) may also want to register some antiURLs (an insulting url consisting of a name followed by “sucks” or “fail” or similar), to prevent other people being able to use them. PayPal probably wish they had registered PayPalSucks.com for instance.
The antiURL can point to your official website or simply point nowhere – perhaps a better strategy as you don’t really want your name being associated with something insulting.
Social media accounts
It is very important to have social media accounts in your, or your organisation’s, name. Again it is impractical to do everything, so stick to the main sites, currently (in the UK): Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. In addition establish a blog on a popular site such as Tumblr or WordPress. Make sure you reference your official website from each of these.
You can use a service like knowem.com to identify which social platforms have accounts or content that uses your name
As far as possible try to make sure that the name you use for each account is as similar as possible. You don’t want an Instagram account for “SupaSnax” and a Twitter account for “SupaSnaxCafe” if you can avoid it.
You will probably be using one or two of these accounts, perhaps Facebook and Twitter, for marketing purposes. Just because you have several other social media accounts, don’t feel you need to be posting content to all of them regularly. After all, this is a defensive measure aimed at stopping someone from impersonating you easily. All you need is an occasional piece of content, so the account doesn’t look totally unused (which would damage your reputation, exactly what you are trying to avoid!), and relevant profile information that points people to where the action is really happening.
YouTube and video
YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google. It is where a lot of people go to find things. So having a presence there makes sense.
You don’t need a massive investment for this. And it is good marketing in any case. You will need to create a handful of videos about your company (or if you are an individual about yourself and your interests). These can be simple “talking head” videos – perhaps explaining something about your organisation’s philosophy and products.
Script each video first and then practise it. Once you are familiar with what you want to say, write yourself some notes (so that you are not reading from a script) and set up a camera, with some good lighting, in a quiet room. Use a free video editor like Windows Movie Maker to trim out the stumbles and silences and to add captions and titles.
Try to add a new video once every couple of months. While the intention here is purely defensive (if you are using YouTube for marketing you probably need to do a little more than simple talking head videos) it will help you if you add new video content every now and then as it will maintain the prominence of your channel on YouTube.
A word of caution
Nothing you can do will prevent someone who is determined to hijack your identify from doing so. All you are doing here is to stop them from creating fake identities in the most obvious and noticeable places. That is important. But it isn’t the only thing you should do.
I will cover off how to listen for people who are insulting you, how to create a prominent profile, and what to do when someone does start to insult you, in later posts.