Your online reputation score is your new credit score …
Today, I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned about the care and maintenance of your on-line reputation; in essence, how the on-line “virtual you” can greatly impact the living, breathing you – now and in the future. How great an impact? Look at it like this: “Your online reputation score is your new credit score.” (Reputation.com). If you are wondering where the data comes from to create this new “credit score”, I have two words for you: Data Broker.
Before researching my earlier post Are You Keeping Track of Being Tracked, I didn’t give much thought to “data brokering”, a largely covert and self-regulated industry that exists to generate valuable profiles from your online activity and sell them to … well, anyone (yes, anyone). Hmm, and you thought that all those friendly invitations to join social networks, purchases on EBay, special coupons, nifty apps, and Internet surfing ended there? Nope.
To get a snapshot of the type of personal and professional information that is being collected from your on-line activity, check out Meet the Online Snoops Selling Your Dirty Laundry and How to Stop Them, as featured in my previous post Where Does Your On-line Information Go? Ask a Data Broker.
At first glance, you might say to yourself “I don’t have anything out there that I need to hide” … and actually, I said this to myself. Upon deeper reflection, I realized that a virtual presence or on-line reputation needs to be cared for the same way as you would take care of your real-world reputation. If not, you run the risk of having your good name smeared with inaccurate (remember, data brokers are generating “connect-the-dot” profiles about on your on-line activities, social networks, grocery purchases, travel, etc.) data that could have far reaching consequences. Here are seven steps that I’ve used myself, hopefully they will be useful to you too:
7 steps to make your online reputation sparkle & shine …
1. To get a handle on how your personal and professional data is collected, analyzed, stored and sold at a profit, please read the two blogs I posted earlier this week: Are You Keeping Track of Being Tracked and Where Does Your On-line Information Go? Ask a Data Broker
2. Do a Google search for your name and pay close attention to the search results. For example, I found two active social networks that I thought were deleted last year and one network that displayed private information about me that I preferred remain private (I have since contacted the group and the data will be removed in about a week). For tips on to keep your private information safe and secure on Facebook, checkout How to Protect Your Private Information on Facebook, and for LinkedIn, you might enjoy reading Make your LinkedIn Profile an Online Reputation Management Tool.
3. Sign-up for Google Alerts to notify you when your name comes up anytime, anywhere on the Internet. I did this last week and so far, I’ve received three or four notifications. Remember to select “All Results” and “Once a day” delivery frequency (unless you have a very active on-line presence).
4. Today, I signed up for another Google tool called Google Me on the Web, as recommended by Jack Wallen in his article Five Tools to Monitor and Manage Your Online Reputation. According to Wallen, the beauty of this tool is that it can also help you remove unwanted content. Other tools include Reputation.com, Naymz, Whos Talkin, and Yasni. I am familiar with Reputation.com and anticipate that as people start to catch on about how their on-line data is being collected, analyzed, stored and sold by data brokers; an impressive flurry of new companies will emerge to tackle reputation maintenance concerns head on.
5. As you may have surmised, Google and other search engines will not simply remove negative content from the web upon your request, so it is important to keep your Internet presence strong and positive. According to Andy Beal, the chief executive of Trackur, the best course of action is “to focus on publishing content about yourself that you can control, and that portrays you in a positive light”. Why does this work? Because a cascade of positive messages will simply push a lesser number of negative messages further down in the search results. (Hmm, sounds pretty rudimentary to me, so I’ll look forward to a lightening-rod Silicon Valley company finding another solution!).
6. Next, I’ve noticed the concept of “claiming your internet property” come up again and again in articles and other research. What does this mean? It means buying the website domain name that pertains to your name. For example, I own my the domain name, and some people even take the extra step of acquiring an assortment (.org, .me. us, etc.) of domain extensions.
7. Put a regular on-line reputation maintenance program in place. I did this and plan to review my strategy every three to four months. I’ll certainly sleep better at night knowing that I have done what I can to keep my online data and reputation as fresh and clean as an ocean breeze (you get the picture).
Managing the online you …
So there you have it. An overview of Managing the Online You in three blogs:
- Are You Keeping Track of Being Tracked
- Where Does Your On-line Information Go? Ask a Data Broker
- 7 Steps to Make your On-line Reputation Sparkle & Shine
On a closing note, we all know that both the good and bad aspects of the net continually evolve. To protect yourself, always learn and always be vigilant.