This chapter describes how to create your own reputation road map
and how to use that reputation road map to perform an online repu-
tation audit. The examples are based on the techniques the profes-
sionals use to help individuals improve their online reputations, but
business owners and professionals will also benefit from the lessons
in this chapter. Chapter 12 has special information for businesses
and professionals.
The road map to online reputation success can be broken down
into a few simple steps. First, determine who might be looking for in-
formation about you. Second, identify your goals. Evaluating your
goals will help you determine whether you want to use the Internet
Your Reputation Road
Map and Online
Reputation Audit
162
CHAPTER
163Your Reputation Road Map and Online Reputation Audit
to advance your career, to present a positive image to friends and col-
leagues, or to just protect your privacy online. Third, perform an on-
line reputation audit. You can check your own online reputation by
using a variety of sources to figure out what other people see when
they look for you online.
Later chapters describe more advanced steps. Chapter 11 teaches
you how to protect yourself by carefully supplementing your total
online profile with appropriate and truthful positive content. Chap-
ter 11 also teaches you how to support existing positive content
about you, which may act as a buffer against unfair attacks and other
harmful content.
This progression from goal-setting through research, improve-
ment, and monitoring makes intuitive sense. You cant reach your
goals until you know what those goals are. You cant plot a path to
success unless you know where you are standing today. You cant de-
fend your reputation unless you know when and how it is being at-
tacked. And, as far as online reputation goes, your best defense is
often a good offense.
Why Take Control?
Be yourself, take control of your life.
—EMMA BUNTON (SINGER)
Be yourself, take control of your reputation.
—MODERN INTERNET ADVICE
Some people may question the need to actively manage their online
reputation. They may ask, Why does it matter if there is negative
stuff online?” The answer is that you make an impression online,
whether you like it or not. And, unfortunately, your online first im-
pression is often your only first impression. As explained in Chapter
2, the Internet is the instant universal research source, used by every-
one from journalists to nosy neighbors. If there is negative content
online, it is almost certain that somebody will find it and use it
against you.
Other people just think nobody would have a reason to attack
them online. But online reputation damage is caused by more than
just intentional attack; many reputations are harmed or destroyed
when “the machine spins out of control, as described in Chapter 6.
And, as explained in Chapter 7, anyone with social or business inter-
actions is subject to online attack by jealous competitors, bitter ex-
lovers, and anyone else who has a motive to spread gossip offline. Even
the most virtuous people are subject to online attack; some websites
are frequented by disaffected youth who often inflict malicious
pranks (or even outright attacks) on innocent victims simply for the
sake of inflicting pain. If anything, the earnest innocent are at the
most risk from vicious attack by angst-ridden Web dwellers because
they approach the Internet with such different cultural expectations.
Some people object to online image management because they
think that it is wrong to obscure negative information online; these
people believe that somebody searching for them online will be able
to properly weigh all the information that can be found—positive
and negative—and then reach the correct judgment. But these peo-
ple wrongly assume that Web searchers will take the time to carefully
weigh false negative information against true positive information
and then manage to correctly identify which is true. In reality, Web
users form their first impressions with just a glance and without
bothering to look further. But, even more important, it is very diffi-
cult to refute some kinds of false negative information: How do you
disprove allegations that you had an affair, or smears alleging that
you have low morals, or a lie charging that you misused an official
position? It is near impossible. The law does not tolerate falsehoods
offline; there is no reason why you should tolerate falsehoods online.
Other people may claim that it is unfair or misleading to improve
your online image beyond cleaning up absolute falsehoods. But that
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