This article was published previously by MMN. We hope that you enjoy these blasts from the past as we add them to our new site.
Using the Internet for self promotion is a great way to increase your reach and exposure without digging deeper into your pocketbook. The most important thing to remember is that not everything that is free comes without a price. All of us who work and play online can be subject to bad publicity. The key is to be aware of the possibility and have a game plan, more formally known as an Online Reputation Management plan. Online Reputation Management (ORM) is simply keeping track of all online content about you or your company and knowing what to do when you run across something negative or untrue. Many ORM companies also offer search engine optimization, but that’s a whole other article!
If you Google online reputation management you will come up with hundreds of companies that offer their services to those who are willing to pay for it, and believe me there are plenty of people who are! According to Wikipedia, an online research report from August 2008 estimated the value for such service firms in the UK to grow that year to around £60 million.
It’s safe to say that this is something a lot of people are taking very seriously. But just because it’s the real deal, doesn’t mean you need to pay for it! There are numerous free tools online, you just have to be willing to put in the time to manage them. Many of these tools automate to your email inbox, so you don’t have to spend hours every day searching for content. One great tool is Google Alerts. You type in your name, your company name, or the name of your products and then Google does the work for you by sending anything they find to your inbox. There are blog search tools such as Technorati and Google Blog Search. The cool thing about Technorati is that it also keeps tabs on the authority of the blogs, so you can know if you are dealing with a serious time bomb on your hands or just a little mess you can sweep under the rug. Monitter is a great real time Twitter keyword tracker. BoardTracker is a search tool for discussion boards only, and it also can be sent directly to your email inbox. These are just a few of the free tools out there, and by no means a list of the only ones I think are worthwhile.
Once you are armed with the tools to keep track of your reputation, you need to think about how you will handle any bad publicity you might come across. One idea is to generate new content to bump the unwanted content down in the search engines. Another idea is to create posts on existing content, but you have to be careful not to be argumentative, and remember the more you post on another site the higher up it moves in the search engines. In some cases you may want to take the conversation offline, as in a personal email or phone call if possible, hoping to resolve the issue and get them to post a rebuttal. Or depending on the situation, ignore and move on. Whatever you do, don’t make an emotional mistake by immediately responding. The best thing you can do is to step back and make a game plan on how you are going to deal with it.
Remember…be alert! Someone could be writing something about you right now that is untrue and you may never find it…but you can almost guarantee someone else will, and it may cost you. Maybe it will keep you from getting that job you always wanted, or more funding money for your start-up. Maybe you will get lucky and no one will notice it or care, but wouldn’t you sleep better at night knowing you were keeping tabs on what was being said? Go on, take the first step, set up your Google Alerts now!