Concern about reputation is a barrier for many organizations and individuals preventing them from fully harnessing the power of Web 2.0 technologies. Consider the Oscar Wilde quote that says:
“One can survive everything nowadays, except death, and live down anything, except a good reputation.”
So clearly having your personal reputation or your organization’s reputation blemished is a serious matter to be reckoned with. Many organizations are struggling with how to develop policy around rules of conduct for when disgruntled employees inflict damage on their reputation. Because of this, there’s a cottage industry of businesses that have popped up to repair what turned out to be damaged company reputations. Here, I will speak to what you can do an individual to take responsibility to manage your own online reputation.
Perhaps you think this isn’t important to you. Perhaps you are even unaware that this is a problem to be reckoned with. Any executive or leader reading this should get their head out of the sand and wake up to the urgency that demands that we become proactive about our reputation. Furthermore, the carefree youth today may want to take an opportunity to NOT learn the hard way, by losing professional opportunities due to the apathy experienced in early life.
In an August 2009 article, New York Times reported that employers are starting to use Social Networking to check out job applicants. The article reports the results of a June 2009 survey that Harris Interactive did on behalf of CareerBuilder.com:
§ Forty-five percent of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates
§ Eleven percent plan to use these techniques for screening
§ Industries that specialize in technology and sensitive information are most likely to screen job candidates via social networking sites or online search engines
The survey results also reported that when employers did NOT chose a candidate for a job, the reasons were most likely as follows when the potential employee:
· Posted inappropriate photographs or information – 53%
· Posted content about them drinking or using drugs – 44%
· Bad-mouthed previous employer, co-workers or clients – 35%
· Showed poor communication skills – 29%
· Made discriminatory comments – 26%
· Lied about qualifications – 24%
· Shared confidential info from previous employer – 20%
You still don’t think this blog is about you? Do you? Let me bust some myths.
Myth (1): I don’t even use this social networking junk, that’s for kids. So, I don’t have a problem.
I did a search on the name of one of my 10 favorite NASA CIOs “Chris Kemp” … the first hit? Mug shots! How does one cope with this? Well, there’s a comedy bit out there where a spouse gets caught in a compromising situation face-to-face with their spouse. They simply insist “Baby, that wasn’t me!” Well, you can try that because it may work. Or you can do what Chris does and use his middle initial. There’s lots of good content about “Chris C. Kemp.”
Myth (2): Look, I am a seasoned user of this technology; I have enough sense to know what to say and what not to say?
I have a wonderful tech-savvy geezer colleague who truly understands these things. He hooked up with the wrong “intelligent” application on a popular social networking site. So, I sent him a message that went something like this:
Diva: “Dude? XXX movies??”
Diva:”Can you just take that stuff down?”
Geezer:”Ok I took it down, but that wasn’t me!!”
Myth (3): See, that’s why I have personal and private accounts … I keep it separate!
NY Times reported a case of a police officer who had a little fun talking trash on MySpace. Well, that locker room banter crept into his professional life and affected the outcome of the cases he worked on. The fact that it was a separate private account, didn’t affect his outcome professionally.
So, what’s person to do? Here are three tips:
(1) Defend against any possibility of bad content by overwhelming it with good content.
Use the superpowers of Web 2.0 for good. Even though what’s out there is more or less permanent, overwhelm the bad content with intentional good content. Use professional sites to do networking in your field. If you wondered about the advantages of doing a professional blog, here’s one for sure. You can also comment on other people’s blog. Another possibility is to use micro blogging sites like Twitter to establish a professional reputation. Be careful not to overdo it. Too much content casts doubt about what your professional priorities are.
(2) Actively monitor content about yourself.
You can set options in various search engines to alert you when there is new content posted with your name. Ignorance can be bliss, but in this environment, it’s not. You need to at a minimum be aware of what is out there.
(3) Private is private, but there is no personal. Everything is public on the information super highway!
Many social networking sites are increasing their functionality to provide more privacy. Leverage these capabilities. It won’t hurt to initially be an observer on the side line before you jump in. You can learn from others.
Now just in case you think this blog isn’t about you, here are some final results of the Harris Interactive survey. Eighteen percent of employers reported they have found content on social networking sites that caused them to hire the candidate:
· Candidate’s profile provided a good feel for the candidate’s personality and fit – 50%
· Candidate’s profile supported their professional qualifications – 39%
· Candidate was creative – 38%
· Candidate showed solid communication skills – 35%
· Candidate was well-rounded – 33%
· Candidate had a good reputation as indicated by other people who posted good references – 1%
· Candidate received awards and accolades – 15%
· Be professional at all times and be careful with sarcasm. Think before you publish.
· Contribute and interact on a professional basis.
· Maintain content about yourself and ensure that it is kept up-to-date.
· Respect copyright laws, financial disclosure laws, and any policy that your employer may have.
Warren Buffet is quoted as saying that, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Start now, and build YOUR online reputation.
Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA