When first I started blogging, over a decade ago, I had the goal of trying to help people. As I travelled this digital writing journey, I realized that as I produced digital content, I was also creating my own online brand or digital persona, that of “HighTechDad.” And, hopefully, my digital persona and online reputation has remained intact over the years. Nowadays, more and more people are online, sharing one thing or another and setting up a digital basecamp if you will, and, having 3 daughters who are venturing online, I feel it is important to talk about the importance of maintaining one’s online or digital reputation. And, to have as much control over it as possible. This is the idea behind a campaign that I’m participating in called #MentorME which is all about understanding online reputations as well as getting a .ME domain on the Internet and making it “yours.” Let me explain.
Domain.ME, who provides domains that end in .ME, sponsored a survey which was conducted by Wakefield research in October 2015 of 1000 nationally represented US adults over the age of 18 who regularly use social media and the Internet. They found some interesting results:
- 66% of Millennials are worried that information about them online might negatively affect their reputation.
- 43% of Millennials admit being negatively affected by info about them online.
- 42 percent of Americans surveyed actually have changed their opinion about someone based on content they saw about them online – including 57 percent of Millennials.
If you haven’t thought about this, you probably should. More and more, recruiters and companies search for candidates’ digital footprints and online reputation to gain a better understanding of the person they are considering hiring. Social sharing contributes to this digital reputation, not only what YOU write and share, but also what others write and share ABOUT YOU. And remember, once something is out in the digital ether, it is practically impossible to remove or erase.
#MentorME and Developing & Controlling Your Online Presence
It’s critical at an early age that parents help their children understand that what they share or what others share about them online will potentially impact their future, in both good and bad ways. (I have many thoughts on parenting, but I’m no expert.) You hear the “curation” buzz word often. Frequently, it is tied to PR firms and digital agencies searching for curated content to share in campaigns to promote a product or brand. However, as digital citizens, we need to also think about the curation of our own personal brands. For example, my wife has helped my oldest daughter understand what shared items can help or hurt her online presence. (She must be doing something right as she has over 20k Instagram followers.) But her digital persona is carefully curated. And while, from time to time, she gets an odd comment or follower, for the most part, she has maintained a positive personal online brand.
But, not all of us are necessarily “public” figures, that is to say, people with lots of “friends” or “followers” – but regardless of the size of your online social presence, we need to pay close attention to how we are portrayed online and do our best to control the content therein. One of the first thing you can do is do some “ego surfing” – essentially Google yourself. Have you tried that? You might be surprised at the results.
From the Domain.ME sponsored survey (and I quote):
- More than half (53 percent) of respondents surveyed admit that they do not monitor information about themselves on the Internet.
- 60 percent of Americans have not searched for their name on a search engine (like Google) – of those who do, nearly half (47 percent) only do so once or twice a year.
- When they do search for online content about themselves, only 1 in 5 find that the information that appears is exactly what they want people to know about them.
This is a bit scary. People simply don’t know what is being said about them online, nor have they even considered searching for information about themselves.
Protecting your Digital Persona
But there are steps you can do to begin to control your online reputation:
- Do regular searches about yourself using your name tied with employer or school name or any nicknames.
- Think about the type of information or content you share (also, remember, it doesn’t always have to be something positive – be yourself when you share).
- Understand that it is impossible to be “private” online, and once something is “out there,” it’s permanent!
- Consider setting up your own “digital basecamp,” a place where YOU are in full control of the content, like a blog.
- Make it easier for people who are searching for YOUR shared content to find you – set up your own .ME domain, for example.
As this campaign is about mentoring (thus the name #MentorME) and the fact that I have been, for better or worse, carefully curating, creating and nurturing my own online persona and digital reputation, I’m happy to answer any questions that people may have about this topic, the process of website creation (I have hosted my own site for more than a decade), reputation management and creating one’s own brand.
If you have questions, comments or ideas you would like to share about this topic, do let me know. Leave a comment or ask me on Twitter or post something on my Facebook page.
Campaign Disclaimer: This post was inspired and sponsored by Domain.ME, the provider of the personal domains that end in .ME. As a company, they aim to promote thought leadership to the tech world. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
HTD says: Take charge of your digital reputation by first claiming an easy way for people to find your online presence with a Domain.ME domain. Then create content that you control!