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September 27, 2006

Online image hijacking

It seems that some people are running into online image problems stemming from personal sites they didn't even create. Sarah White has the report of back-stabbing job competition among college students (via Ragan Jones):

There are cases of college students creating explicit or unflattering (to say it nicely) websites and user accounts pretending to be people they view as competition for jobs. Think about it - they aren't dumb. If they know someone will be looking to compare - who would you hire the one with a friendly site or the one very explicit. The sad part is - the other student may not even know the site exists, yet their reputations are tarnished.

How to protect yourself? First, look yourself up. Do the obvious, quick-and-easy background check that potential employers are likely to do. Look for yourself in social networking sites, too, especially if you're young enough for people to expect to find you there.

If you find something inaccurate—if you're the target of someone's unfair competition—you may be able to get the site removed (good luck). If that doesn't go anywhere, well... the legal issues promise to get interesting.

There's a lot more to your online reputation than a MySpace profile. If there's adverse information about you out there that won't go away—even if it's false—you can use other services to counterbalance the bad stuff. Start a blog; post a LinkedIn profile; post some pictures on Flickr (not the ones that create more trouble for your job search!); create a competing MySpace (or Facebook, or whatever) profile. You might even write about the false profile (but don't air your suspicions about who may have done it online). The goal is to bury the bad profile with more favorable search results, but you'll still want to get rid of the bad stuff if you can.

This sounds like something that's happened once or twice, but even assuming it's unlikely to happen to you, you should know what people find when they look you up. You knew that by now, didn't you?

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October 10, 2006

What's your Google score?

William Arruda has a longer take on self-googling on MarketingProfs today. It's a helpful piece, starting with why you should look yourself up and going on to what you should be looking for. One frequently forgotten aspect of your search results is the absolute number of results, which William suggests can be meaningful:

These benchmarks vary depending on your industry and career goals, but they provide basic metrics you can use to evaluate your volume of Google results.
  • 5-50 entries: Professional with 0-5 years' experience, graduating university students, etc.

  • 50-500 entries: Professionals with 5-10 years' experience, entry-level marketers, junior account executives, etc.

  • 500-5,000 entries: Marketing director, managers with over 10 years of experience and several direct reports, independent consultants, small business owners

  • 5,000-50,000: entries Marketing VPs, acknowledged thought leaders, highly regarded consultants or subject-matter experts

  • 50,000-500,000 entries: CMOs at major companies, highly acclaimed consultants or experts, best-selling authors

  • >500,000 entries: Celebrities, internationally acclaimed gurus, etc.

At 22,300 results, that makes me an acknowledged thought leader, highly regarded consultant or subject-matter expert. Thanks, William! (Yes, I realize there's more to it than that.)

William's thing is personal branding, so he focuses on how to tell if your Google results support your brand and suggest some activities to improve your results. Go read Have you been digitally dissed? for alliterative analysis and tactics for builing your personal brand in Google search results.

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October 20, 2006

Details make your personal brand

Is it a coincidence that misspelled is hard to spell? You know that typos in your résumé can be trouble, but have you thought about the effect of typos and other mistakes elsewhere? If competence is part of your desired image, it needs to be evident everywhere, from the direct communication of a job application to the public image in your online profiles and Google results.

Look at what a few well-placed typos do to undermine the image of a federal agency (via Kent Blumberg):

What does "Frequestly" mean? And how about the use of "our" instead of "out"?

Here's the obvious observation of the day: typos like these aren't really helping the FAA brand. I actually like the word "frequestly", and would find it to be brand enhancing if I heard it from Cranium or Virgin or Mini, but when the FAA speaks, we need it to sound like James Earl Jones. We want the FAA to show us at every opportunity that they have their act together. Brands are fractal entities, and the meaning of the whole is to found in the execution of even the lowliest detail.


Just about anything you do online has the potential to become (a) public and (b) permanent. Even personal emails can become public if the recipient forwards them. Certainly, non-work-related comments you post to a blog, mailing list, or social networking site will probably be available to any recruiter who looks you up. Spelling, grammar, and clarity of thought matter, even away from the office.

On the other hand, tracking the misspellings of your name is a useful addition to your online reputation monitoring practices. (Reputation monitoring is an extension of self-Googling. You can find more on my other blog, The New-Savvy Executive.)

So, how many times do you proofread a post about spelling and typos? :-)

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November 1, 2006

7 ways to meet people with your blog

One of the coolest benefits of having your own blog is the way it creates an excuse—and permission—to contact anyone you want. Do you have someone you really want to meet? Your blog can open the door. How?

  1. Pick up a topic from your future contact's blog and write about it on your own blog. Link to the original and send a short note to let them know about the post. Use that note to initiate a direct conversation.

  2. Leave thoughful comment on your future contact's blog. Be sure to include your blog's URL on the comment form. Many (most?) bloggers will look at the blogs of their commenters. As a bonus, other readers will find you, too.

  3. Send an email to your future contact with a link to one of your posts. Invite comments, or mention why you think your future contact would be interested.

  4. Quote your future contact. Find a quote from an article, press release or presentation. Use it in an interesting blog post, link to the person (if possible), and send the courtesy note.

  5. Write about a company in your blog. Include the company name, a link to its web site (or blog), and a Technorati tag with the company's name. Send the courtesy note to an appropriate contact at the company.

  6. Write about a company and invite them to contact you in the post. If they're paying attention, that can work.

  7. Call a company to research a future blog post. Sometimes, it's just that easy.

This list may look a little hypothetical, but every one of these has worked for me. The courtesy note is a little trick I picked up from Jim Durbin, and it as been a great idea. Even when it doesn't lead to a direct contact, I think it makes a nice impression on the person you've quoted or linked to.

Of course, it's not easy or automatic. If your writing isn't interesting or relevant to your future contact, don't expect a response. Even if you do it right, don't expect success every time. Still, these techniques can be effective, and the blog connection warms up what would otherwise be cold calls.

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December 1, 2006

Cost / benefit of a personal brand

There's a great conversation on the costs (and benefits) of a personal brand over at the JibberJobber blog. It started with recognition for Heather Henricks's portfolio web site—a personal branding vehicle created by Brandego. The question that came up in the comments is whether her career is helped or hurt by a controversial volunteer organization she includes on her site.

Some points from the comments:

  • Branding will repel as well as attract people. Make sure your brand only repels people and companies you wouldn't want to work with.
  • You can put things on a web site that you wouldn't put on a résumé.
  • Your brand is not your value proposition. It's the difference between what you can do for a company and what sets you apart from the others who can do the same thing.
  • Never let a company manage your career. Only you can do it well.

And it's still going. Take a few minutes to read through the comments. A solid group of thoughtful folks have shared some useful insights. Then, take a look at Heather's site and think about whether your career would benefit from this kind of promotion—even (especially?) if you're currently employed.

Full disclosure: Brandego was founded by friends of mine, but I have no financial interest in their success.

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April 9, 2007

Marketing with your online presence

Mario Sundar shares some ideas on using online visibility in your job search. 5 steps to let your dream job find you:

  1. Start networking today—Offline events
  2. Start a blog on your favorite topic—Online presence
  3. Engage with those who share your enthusiasm for the topic
  4. Find a tool to sustain both kinds of networking (online/offline)
  5. Craft your online presence around your favorite topic
The long version is worth the time. Mario recently joined LinkedIn as Community Evangelist, so we can probably expect more on practical applications of LinkedIn from him.

September 5, 2007

Another reason to check your Facebook

Facebook issued another reminder to think about what's in your profile today. Starting in a few weeks, Facebook profiles that are visible to "everyone" will be visible to everyone, when outside search engines are allowed to being indexing them. Jobseekers (and anyone else with a thought for their online reputations) should take advantage of this opportunity to clean up their profiles or adjust their privacy settings before what happens in Facebook appears in Google.

OK, well, your Facebook isn't going to show up entirely, but what is going to show up is your public profile—the picture preview box that doesn't reveal much. Outsiders who click on any of the links will go to a welcome screen that invites them to join Facebook, while logged-in Facebook users will be able to use the links.

What does this mean? People outside of Facebook will be able to use search engines to learn if someone is in Facebook, and Facebook profiles may become prominent in search results for people who have them. Combine the new search visibility with Facebook's membership growth beyond its original college crowd, and you can see the importance of considering what you share.

Facebook's privacy controls are actually pretty good, so you can control how much is visible to people you don't know. If you have a Facebook account, just follow the link in today's announcement to your Search Privacy settings. There, you can decide whether to allow people outside Facebook to see your public profile.

Just remember that "everyone" is a bigger crowd than it was last year.

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Check yourself at Rapleaf

While we're on the subject of online profiles and how people can find yours, take a look at Rapleaf. It's one of several interesting people-finding services you can use to learn about the people you meet, and you should assume that someone will use it to learn about you. Go ahead, look yourself up.

Rapleaf compiles basic information from a variety of sites, and it allows registered users to rate each other. But the interesting bit for today is the way it finds online profiles from social media sites you may use. So if you have a profile on sites like Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, LinkedIn or many more, Rapleaf will make it easy for people to find.

If you register with Rapleaf, you can claim your email address(es) and edit the privacy settings for your profile. That way, if you don't want people to find, for example, your Amazon.com wish list, you can delete it from your profile.

Whether you're a fan of personal branding or not, online profiles do start to build an image for you online. It's worth thinking about what impression you make with your online presence.

via Stefanie Olsen

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