June 7, 2016

Why Your Online Reputation Is Just As Important As Good Credit

Managing your online reputation has become - for far too many - a “necessary evil” of today’s world. This is most obvious for those looking to change career paths or even embark on their first career. It’s insanely naive to think what’s online about you doesn’t matter. It matters just as much to your future as your credit report. In fact, it may be even more important than that. To signify the importance of what a search on Google turns up about you, it’s helpful to think of your search results on the same level as a credit inquiry.

Past Performance Signals Future Relationships of All Kinds

Your credit report in essence shows the quality of the relationship between you and your past creditors. It gives potential lenders, landlords, and even employers a glimpse into your previous responsibilities and how well you followed up on them. Your Google search results send the same social signals to others - people who are evaluating if it’s wise to enter into business or social relationships with you. If there’s negative information that comes up, negative professional reviews, or even disparaging comments you yourself have made on forums or other sites - people are going to pause, and think twice. And just like a credit report, it’s also a warning sign if nothing comes up about you online, or if the information is totally irrelevant or neutral (such as people search site listings and nothing more). In this case (with everyone in the world online in some form, it seems), a lack of information will leave one asking, “Who is this person? Can I trust them?”

Not Controlling It Doesn’t Mean It’s Not There

The idea of starting to actively manage and take charge of your online reputation can be just as intimidating to some as taking charge of their credit report: it seems overwhelming and impossible. But like when you’re trying to improve your credit, the same strategy applies to controlling and managing your online reputation:
  1. Decide what you want to be known for
  2. Begin taking such actions now
You need to start somewhere. Decide now what you want to be known for. If you want to improve your credit then you want to become known for paying your bills. So where do you start? Making sure your current bills are paid on time. This is where fixing your online reputation is just like fixing your credit: it’s much easier to set out to do the right thing going forward than it is to spend even more time in the past to go back and correct or eliminate all errors. As Dorie Clark, author of “Stand Out”, writes in one of her reputation articles, “...the secret is to start now to establish an online presence that reflects what you want to be known for, which will crowd out any errant information.” How does that information get crowded out? That’s where the “Begin taking such actions now” area really comes in. Recognizing what sites and kinds of information Google likes is a huge part of the process. Essentially, Google adores original content. They also adore people who are actually social on social media (strange, right?).

Sharing Who You Are, What You Know = Fast Road to A Good Reputation

By definition, a reputation is defined as how you are known for treating others and conducting business. To begin building your ideal reputation online, you need to begin being that person in your interactions, both online and off. You need to interact with people online and show them what you can offer them. You need to treat them well, engage with them, and treat your contacts with professionalism and confidence. This can be done via Twitter and Facebook, but also consider two vastly underutilized sources: LinkedIn and your own blog. Not only will social media, LinkedIn, and your blog rank incredibly high in Google, but these are natural platforms for you to begin sharing your knowledge and expertise with others. These are natural platforms for you to openly share what you’ve learned from others with your growing audience. That’s how you become well-known and develop a reputation for quality, knowledge, and an overall great attitude. Developing a solid reputation online and in social media is not about holding what you know close-to-the-chest, being selfish with information, and turning opportunities to provide value into slimy, unwelcome sales pitches that really solve no one’s problem. Such actions drip with insecurity and fear - this repulses people away from, rather than attracting them to, yourself and your ideas. When you build up your credit, you are showing that you’re someone eager to share in responsibility and make good on your word. When you build up your reputation, you are showing you’re someone eager to grow in both learning and sharing. You provide information, you ask questions. You aren’t afraid to give some knowledge away for free - and then get mass exposure because of it. That’s going to have a rippling effect on your reputation - both online and off - that simply can’t be faked. And to potential clients, employers, or friends - nothing is more attractive.