What do you need to know about online reputation?

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Despite having written a book about personal reputation and the web, I haven’t been talking about it a lot recently.

This week serendipitously I spoke about managing your own reputation online two days running. Tweets about Andrew Keen’s speech in Berlin Southampton today and an article in the New Statesman have made me think it’s a subject I should return to and re-think in light of the way that with trolls and Twitter mobs making the headlines seemingly every week.ZZ556792DA

So, these are eight things you need to develop a literacy of online reputation…

These bullets may also literally be the chapter headings I submit to my publisher in a week or two for the second edition of Me and My Web Shadow:

  • Being found: The best thing you can do both to help your reputation online and to guard against negative things is to be the best and first source of information about yourself. That’s why you need to have profiles on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google and Facebook as a minimum. Because people will look for you there and you want to own the things they see first.
  • First impressions: What people find when they look for you, what they see first of all, is incredibly important. Make sure the information on your online presence tells people what they need to know, that you’re showing your best side to the web, as it were. But don’t fake it or over-promote – that makes a bad first impression.
  • What you do: What you do, not what you say, is the thing that will build and enhance your reputation. If you are doing, thinking and saying interesting and useful things then make sure they are online, or reflected and represented online.
  • What others say about you: Beyond asking for comments, ratings and endorsements, what others say about you, the things you do that they link to, re-post, talk about online – these are the things that build your reputation online. Being present online, doing interesting things, being useful to others – this builds reputation. Reputation is earned – sometimes, you might say, hard won.
  • A reputation for…: The stuff you put online tells a story about who you are. All of it does. So it’s not a question of “should I put pictures of me at drunken parties on the web”? More, “do I want pictures of me drunk to be what I have a reputation for?” Beyond what you don’t want to do and share online, what is it that you want to be known for? Maybe do more of that…
  • Public and private: It’s up to you how much of you you decide to share online. You need to have a personal policy about where you draw that line, how it works. But privacy is not a public matter – the choices you make about how much to share online can affect your friends, colleagues and family. You need to talk about this with them, especially when you’re not sure about sharing things or when you aren’t comfortable with what they are sharing about you.
  • Bad things: You need to know about all the bad things that happen online – bullying, identity theft, theft, trolls and have a basic strategy about how to avoid then and how to deal with them when they happen to you.
  • Our online society: This web thing is huge, it is tearing up all sorts of norms and conventions and has been doing so for years. With mass adoption of social media, however, it is happening to our society. We need to be talking about what’s happening and how we will all deal with it – from small things like good manners, to difficult, scary questions about mob mentality and where power lies when celebrities and groups of activists wield power and influence that used to be the preserve of the media and politicians. (On this last point – a must read article is Alan White of the New Statesman on Life after a Twitterstorm.)

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