What’s Your Online Reputation?

What do you post on Facebook? Do you consistently update your Twitter? How about your LinkedIn page?

These questions busy the minds of many professionals. Not only is professional reputation based on your accomplishments and behaviors at work, but also how you broadcast them to the world through the overabundance of online channels in existence.

With the flurry of online activity, known as the reputation economy, comes many risks. For starters, simply not having an active social media presence is a risk; posting inappropriate things is another. Indeed, managing online reputation is a skill, one that Michael Fertik, CEO of Reputation.com and author of “The Reputation Economy,” hopes to help both individuals and organizations build.

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Talent Management spoke with Fertik on what’s important in creating a healthy online reputation. Edited excerpts follow.

What is the reputation economy?

It’s an economy in which the reputation determines your professional success or the success of your business. In the new world of big data, digital reputation precedes you, and you no longer are looking for a job; you’re no longer looking for customers — you’re customers and new job are looking for you. And they’re looking for you based on whatever digital profile you have, whether you like it or not.

How has technology shaped today’s reputation economy?

Technology today is making the reputation economy a lot more sensitive to different inputs. So databases are constructed and populated all the time with information about your professional profile, with information about the professional profiles of your employees, the profiles of your products, the profiles of your stores, the profiles of your consumer-facing employees and the profiles of your business.

And so technology is what’s making the digital reputation economy possible, and it’s no longer word of month; it’s a machine that’s hoovering up this data and then making decisions about you.

What are the important foundations of a good online brand?

The most important thing to realize is that you have a digital reputation, whether you like it or not. The biggest mistake people make is saying to themselves, ‘Oh, I don’t post dumb things on Facebook, so I’m OK.’ That’s just flat wrong. In the new reputation economy, when jobs are finding you from machines that are looking for data about terrific candidates for amazing jobs, they’re making decisions based on whatever is out there.

Unless you’re curating your future, you’re missing opportunities. That’s already true. The key thing to do is to have Internet accurately reflect your career and your company’s profile and your successes. That means you have to invest enough time to make sure that you and your true story are discoverable online.

Michael Fertik

CEO and founder of Reputation.com Inc., a Redwood City, California, technology company that sends take-down requests to websites hosting embarrassing content, attempts to influence search results and help clients obtain positive reviews.

Harvard Law School graduate

2012 TechAmerica Entrepreneur of the Year

Author of “The Reputation Economy”

What are some of the online behaviors that leaders need to exhibit to create a powerful reputation?

Your digital résumé is now more important than your paper résumé. You should make sure that you have a very well fleshed out LinkedIn profile; that your Facebook page does not tell a very different story from your LinkedIn profile; that your Twitter profile at least exists and it’s got one or two Tweets a month about at least your interests. You don’t have to do much more than that. If you have a passion that is, say, different outside of work, that’s fine. It’s OK to reflect. Just make sure that your profile altogether is consistent.

How can leaders create digital smoke screens if negative information gets out there?

Well, there are some things in terms of how do you recover if someone has injured you online, because that does happen. There are former spouses, former employees and former customers. Some of them that are real; some of them are fake, alleging to be your customer. These people may attack you online.

So it’s very important to make sure that you own your digital real estate in advance of such a problem by having a URL, a Web page that’s your firstnamelastname.com, that you have a Twitter account that’s got a little bit of content there. For example, that’s Twitter.com/youractualname, not something that is irrelevant, like TulsaPizza, something like that — unless you happen to be in the pizza business in Tulsa.

So if you’re attacked and you have a problem, you’re probably not going to be able to repair it by yourself. I would like to see all our customers call us before they have a problem. Many of our customers call after they have a problem, because they simply can’t handle it themselves anymore.

Would a company build or create an online reputation differently from an individual? How might they do that?

That’s our biggest business in fact — reputation for companies. Companies need to think about their reputations online the same way they think about other parts of their brand. Reputation is bigger than brand. It encompasses your CEO, your executive team, all of your employees all the way down to individual contributors.

It encompasses your products. It encompasses your reputation you have for what it’s like to work there. It encompasses the value people attach to your products, which is typically what we think of as brand. It encompasses how you compare your competitors. It encompasses your stock price. It encompasses your hiring and firing policies.

 Every person in the company is part of your brand, so every person who reaches and touches consumers especially is part of your reputation. Both educating your employees and empowering to build your reputation with you, and committing aggressively at the board level to making sure you have a great reputation digitally and make sure it accurately reflects your offline reality is the key to building a good reputation online.