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Managing your online identity

October 10, 2007 1 comment

What does someone see when they Google your name? Someone else with your name? Maybe a comment that you posted long ago on a website like Meetup, or YouTube? Maybe books that you reviewed or bought on Amazon.com?

If you’re like me, Google pulls up other people with my name – that are not me. I address this problem by creating my own online identity through LinkedIn, Facebook, and this blog. Hopefully someone googling my name will find those sources first, and make judgements based on the information provided there – information that I have created and actively manage.

If someone googles a name and does not locate a definitive source of information, they may find random sources that may not be complete, or provide random or false data. This false data could influence the person who is googling a name to decide whether to hire that person, fund their project, vote for them, date them, determine if they are trustworthy, or inform them whether that person has received traffic tickets, where they live, if they own their own home, and if they have ever filed for bankruptcy, divorce, or been convicted of a crime.

You can’t control all of the sources of information on the internet – but you can actively create and manage your online identity. You can try to manage what people see when they type your name into Google. I recommend starting with LinkedIn, which is basically an online resume. Its helpful to have your professional experience online anyway, so that you can update it periodically. As long as you have established your identity on LinkedIn, go ahead and ask others whose names you know to join your professional community on LinkedIn. You know that stack of business cards that you have lying around in a drawer? Go through them and pull out the most meaningful cards. Search for these folks on LinkedIn, and if you find them, send them an email, inviting them to join your network. The next step towards creating your online profile is with Facebook, which is an engaging and hip way to represent yourself within the online community. Facebook now makes some of its listings available through public search engines, and is one of the most rapidly growing online communities, with 110 million active users. Create a page for yourself here, being mindful that you don’t have to post a photo of yourself. Look for friends on Facebook, too. You can add your blog, your delicious bookmarks, concerts you are going to, books you have read, etc. to your profile – or not.  

You could also try listing yourself in MySpace, Spoke, Xing, Friendster, and Zoominfo.com, and PNN Online. Another step should be to create your own blog. I like wordpress.com. This is a lot of work, isn’t it? Yes, it is, and I would suggest spending 15 -30 minutes a week working on this until you are happy with the results. 

You may wonder – why even bother? If you don’t create your online identity, it will be created for you, and it may not be flattering. Do you want that potential job interviewer to google your name and see random comments, or in the worst case scenario, your traffic tickets? Or do you want the HR person to find your resume and profiles on Linked In, Facebook, Spoke, Xing and Zoominfo?  In today’s world, one has to put not just one’s best foot forward, but one’s best electronic foot forward.

BTW, this works for corporations, products, and services too. For example, why couldn’t Sputnik have its own Facebook page?

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