Internet Presence and Reputation

“Your reputation is a core component of your identity—it reflects who you are and shapes how you interact with others.”1 You do not, however, decide your reputation; you can only choose your actions. Others decide your reputation based on your actions.

Today, when people want learn more about you, like it or not, they very often go first to the Internet. Eventually, we will all be Googled, and the resulting information will likely affect the opinions of others. What do you want others to find out about you?2

Highlights

  • Others decide your reputation based on your actions.
  • Despite all the potential hazards, establishing a presence on the Internet can help your reputation!
  • Let potential employers discover thoughtful comments you’ve written on appropriate blogs; articles you’ve written; lists of your accomplishments on LinkedIn; professional organizations you belong to on Facebook.
  • Regardless of your privacy settings, the Internet is part of your permanent record, and information you upload travels swiftly.
  • You create your own Internet presence—a personal brand—through the use of social media, and you should be very protective of it.

Despite all the potential hazards, establishing a presence on the Internet can help your reputation! You just need to be strategic about how you present yourself. It’s becoming common practice for hiring managers and human resource (HR) professionals to screen candidates by referring to the Internet. Not only are they looking for information about candidates who have applied for jobs, but, they’re also looking for potential candidates to fill jobs.

Hiring managers and HR professionals have become more tolerant about what they see in a candidate’s social media footprint. They know that people drink socially.3 Still, it’s preferable to let potential employers discover thoughtful comments you’ve written on appropriate blogs; articles you’ve written; lists of your accomplishments on LinkedIn; professional organizations you belong to on Facebook. Be authentic, yet responsible when you socialize online.

Even though not foolproof, we recommend you use the strictest privacy settings for your situation on your social media sites. Have you ever noticed that search engines deliver many results from Wikipedia, LinkedIn and Facebook? Regardless of your privacy settings, the Internet is part of your permanent record, and information you upload travels swiftly. Seconds after you post material on Facebook, “friends” can easily forward or copy that material, including comments, files, photos, and videos. Obviously, the more friends you have, the greater the risk; if you tell a secret to even 10 people, is it still a secret?

So, what types of activities are socially and professionally acceptable for personal social sites? Click the topics below that you think are safe to include in your social networking profile. Then, click ‘Submit.’

Ted Demopoulos, Consultant for Internet Presence, suggests the following.4

Personality
Religion
Sexuality
Hobbies
Political beliefs
Nudity
Illegal behaviors
General professional information
General family information
Photos of you engaged in slightly immoral behavior
Anything not acceptable in public
Photos of silly behavior

An argument could be made for or against any of the topics listed. The answers are certainly not clear-cut. However, using good judgment is key. Give it the newspaper test: Would you be okay if the information appeared on the front page of the [name of your favorite newspaper or news site]?

What should you do if offensive or incorrect information on has been posted on someone else’s site about you? Experts recommend the following in the order presented:

  1. Ask the site owner to remove the offensive material and post a correction, if necessary.
  2. Ask the web service to remove the offensive material.5
  3. If you aren’t able to have the offensive information removed via steps 1 and 2, try to bury the “digital dirt’ in search results. Generate lots of positive Internet content about yourself. The undesirable results will be relegated to page 40 or so of the search engines, where nobody looks.
  4. Work with an online service, such as Reputation Defender.6

You create your own Internet presence—a personal brand—through the use of social media, and you should be very protective of it.

Footnotes

  1. ^ (Solove, 2007) p. 33
  2. ^ (Solove, 2007) p. 41
  3. ^ (Dunn, 2011)
  4. ^ (Demopoulos, 2008) PowerPoint slide 8
  5. ^ (Solove, 2007) p. 33
  6. ^ (Demopoulos, 2008) p. 35-36

References