(Used with permission from Reputation.com)
Under duress, most of us will admit to Googling ourselves from time to time. Some of it is just plain old vanity: we like to see our names on a screen, and we don’t care how many times we have to stare at the same old listings. Some of this self-Googling is entirely practical, however: monitoring your reputation is the best way to make sure that no one is spreading false stories about you or your work. The only trouble is that if you’re only looking yourself up while logged into all your usual sites—Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.—you’re not getting the full picture. Here’s how to really understand your online reputation.
1. Log out, log out, and log out again.
Sign out of Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, your blog, your friend’s blog to which you have posting rights, and so on. Delete your cookies, open a new browser, and search for your name. Sound like an awful lot of work just to get to an untainted result? It is, but it’s worth it. Because of various partnerships and the cookie-storing tendencies of many websites, it’s hard to be sure that you’re really looking at a third-party view of your online reputation unless you take all these steps.
Option B: use a new browser altogether. For most people, though, that means going back to an older program that they’ve discarded for good reasons, so pick your poison.
2. Know that even when you’re logged out, you’re not logged out.
Wait, what? But you just told us we were logged out. You are, but your browser still knows where you’re searching from. If you live in Detroit and you’re searching from Detroit, that can possibly affect the results of your search, although most likely not in a way that’s significant.
3. Now that you’ve done all that, search for yourself.
Search on Google and Bing, hit Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, and [look on] any other social networks to which you belong. Look for yourself, your closest friends, and anyone in your immediate family. This should give you an outsider’s perspective of your online reputation.
4. If you find something bad, button up your accounts.
Depending on the social network, you might not be able to go back and hide old posts without changing your privacy settings to restrict access in a larger way. (Facebook, for example, will let you restrict access for new posts, but won’t let you go back and hide older ones, unless you opt to make your entire profile visible to only a select few.) As you go forward, remember that you don’t want to say anything on the internet that you wouldn’t print out and hang above your desk. This goes double for photographic evidence.
5. If you find something bad that can’t be solved by locking up your accounts, add good stuff until you push the negative material off the page.
You can start by joining a lot of social networks. On Facebook, but not Twitter? Fix it. Never got around to joining Pinterest? Now’s the time. And don’t be afraid to ask sites to remove negative material about you—especially if you feel it’s not accurate.
Have you found anything surprising in your online presence?