Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What happens when an employer Googles or Bings your name? The "rules" for online presence keep changing, as do publishing services

Here’s a new little story on MSN “Careerbuilder” about online reputation, “What will employers find when they search your name?” by Selene Dehne from JIST Publishing, link here

There’s no question that the public perception of online reputation has changed radically in the past ten years; in the 90s, people with others reporting to them were often advised to stay off the web as far as making themselves visible!  Social media is the main reason, as well as an ideological change in the 20-something generation, advocated by Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook particularly: you have only one identity. That’s a reverse from the sacrosanct right to anonymity and multiple persona on the web.

The article gives three dilemmas, including the now badly outmoded “there’s no online evidence that I exist.”  That would have worked in 1998, but not now.

I think there is more to think about in strategizing an online presence than just one’s behavior on Facebook and Twitter, even though these matter.  I think one needs to conceptualize at a high level how one wants to be found, and weigh the pros and cons of various strategies carefully.  For many professionals in one area --- for example, musicians, composers, performing artists, or all the way over to software design consultants, even attorneys – a site that is predicated around a professional blog  (equated to a domain name as close to your professional name as possible) with a banner that points to “about me”, itinerary, portfolio (especially for artists and musicians), biography, and contact info makes sense. One problem is that with almost any vendor you put all your eggs in one basket.  But the advantage to organizing one’s presence around a “blog center” is that every time a visitor goes to your domain, he or she can tell what’s happening (it’s easier than wading through pages of other people’s tweets, believe me).  But don’t become “delinquent”; have something new out there every few days.

You could arrange your material around a flat site that links to blog(s). This way, you don’t have everything invested in one approach.  But then you need to make it very easy for visitors to navigate to your blogs and current information.  I will be going through my own approach to this problem this summer.  This approach appeals more to people who wear more than one hat (despite Facebook’s ideology!) under one name, or who focus on publishing or distribution and knowledge management for its own sake.  If your business is a new independent film studio or distributorship, you’ll need “more than a blog.”

Be careful in choosing domain names, especially about possible trademark infringement issues. On the other hand, you may want to consider making a catching nickname your real name, because it will help “brand” you publicly (and may even help legally if there are ever any trademark issues).

There is some controversy over using “free blogging services” v. your own space.  It sounds more professional to host everything in your own space, and this advice has often been given in the past;  but that could be deceptive.  
You need to use a responsive ISP with good support.  Furthermore, many low-cost ISP’s actually ride on top of free services from Blogger or Wordpress (which I think are very close in capability now), so you could find yourself not getting “due process” if there is some problem (like incorrect accusations of spam); it’s “legally” safer if the ISP loads separate copies of blogging software to your account (not all of them do), but that’s more expensive and sometimes cumbersome to support.

You may want to maintain  very well organized backups of your own content made yourself so you could change vendors if there is a major problem relatively quickly.  Use a cloud service (Carbonite, Mozy, Webroot) but it’s a good idea to have your own thumb drive copies, or, better, optical CD (impervious to electrical or EMP damage – maybe an issue in the future, even if not yt).

Here is David C. Skul's video on Online Reputation Management and Blogging Best Practices:

Picture: No, that shouldn't be the first thing an employer sees (bong hits?)

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