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12 creative ways to build and protect your name online

In an effort to build your brand or protect it, you already know the basics, but what are the unheard of ways to manage your reputation and advance it online?

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reputation management

12 ways to build and protect your name online

Since you have the internet and eyeballs, you’ve probably read some articles about building a name for yourself online, but you’re not stupid, you already know you need to be on Twitter and you should have a smartphone. What are your competitors not doing online that you could immediately take advantage of?

To answer that question, we asked Scott Allen at Momentum Factor (who also happens to be one of the first social media professionals in the world, we’re serious). We were surprised that his answers were not only creative but unpredictable – there are two tips we bet you’ve never thought of.

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Allen notes that Ben Franklin once noted that ““It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” So painfully true. What follows is Allen’s own words – read and digest:

Whether you’re Joe Blow, freelancer, or owner of The Joe Blow Company, or simply Joe Blow, CEO of Something Else, LLC, your ability to do business is inextricably bound to your personal name. Even if you have focused on building the business brand over your own personal brand, web-savvy (and who isn’t these days?) potential customers, business partners and employees are going to do their homework, which includes finding out what they can about you personally.  And in today’s world, Benjamin Franklin’s words are perhaps even truer than when he wrote them two centuries ago.

Consider this:  every individual who has a social media account now has an online presence. That’s about 75% of Americans and only slightly lower worldwide. So unless your name is something like Zbgniew Dbrvsky, you’re competing with everyone in the world who shares your name.

On the flip side, unless you’re moderately famous (and no, slightly isn’t enough) or have been proactively building and protecting your name online, all it takes is one Ripoff Report or bad Yelp review that calls you out by name, and your name is virtual mud. If they’re really pissed, they can throw a Fiverr SEO gig at it, and it will take you months, or even years to slog your way out of it.

With that in mind, here are the top 10 action steps you can take to protect your personal name online. Some of the first ones may seem obvious, but they’re here for completeness. Keep reading and you may be surprised.

1. Google yourself. Sure, you’ve probably done it before anyway. This time, make a note of the results — namely, what are the top 20 positive or neutral results out there that are about you. You can note the negative ones, too, but we’re mainly interested at this point in finding out what you have to work with.

2. Update your bio. You want the information that’s out there about you to be current and consistent. If you’ve been online for a while, odds are that there are many different versions of your bio floating around out there. Create a short (under 160 characters), medium (one long paragraph) and long (3+ paragraphs) version.  You may also want to have a version in first-person and another in third-person.

3. Join BrandYourself.com. This is an absolutely essential tool for personal branding, and yes, there’s a free version. It will a) provide an additional URL that’s likely to rank high for your name, b) help you promote your other positive URLs with a high-quality, relevant link, and c) track your progress. While there are other steps that may have more impact, the tracking capability is why you want to do this one sooner rather than later. The free version will let you track and promote three links. If you’re serious about this, it’s well worth the $100/yr. premium plan. Submit your highest-ranking links from step 1.

3. Audit and update your current social media profiles. Make a list of all your existing accounts in a spreadsheet.  Make sure everything is up-to-date and that any links are going where you want them to go.  Also, if any of your accounts don’t have your personal name as part of your username, you may want to consider changing that. It’s not a huge factor, but the Twitter profile for @JoeBlowCEO is going to rank better for “Joe Blow” than @ThatCEODude.

4. Claim additional social media accounts. It really doesn’t matter if you’re never going to use them — go ahead and claim your name (or your variation on it) on as many social platforms as you possibly can. Use your updated bio and set up whatever links you can to your main sites and social channels. KnowEm will do it for you, for a fee. If you want to do it on your own, use NameChk to check availability. If you want to be completely thorough, you can use Wikipedia’s lists of social networking sites, Q&A sites (Quora is a biggie), and social bookmarking sites. Best recommendation: hire a freelancer on Odesk for $2/hr. or less to do it for you.

5. Set up social media aggregation & promotion tools. Now that you have all your social media channels up-to-date, let’s promote them. Must-have tools include Empire Avenue, RebelMouse, XeeMe, About.me and Flavors.me. The key to these is that they are fairly automated — every time you put out a piece of content, it gets linked everywhere. Set it and forget it.

6. Set up Google authorship. If you want Google to know what content is actually created by you, you can now simply tell it on your Google+ profile. This has been around for a couple of years, and heavily utilized by those “in the know”. Now, Google has finally made it much easier for everyone to set this up with their step-by-step guide. Link to all of your new and newly updated social profiles.

7. Become quotable. Have you ever come up with a particularly pithy or memorable way of expressing a thought? If not, it’s time to start, and if so, it’s time to share it. Whenever you think of a nice, concise way of expressing something, put it out on your blog, social media, and quotation sites. While many of them require quotes to be “well sourced”, there are some popular ones that accept user submissions, such as SearchQuotes and QuotesDaddy. If you’re a published author, you can also submit your quotes on GoodReads and if your quote appears in an article just about anywhere, you can try submitting it at ThinkExist.

8. Be a content machine. You have now created the infrastructure to maximize your online exposure. Now you need to give it fuel. There’s no hard and fast rule about how often you should post, or what mix you should have of original content vs. curated content vs. simply sharing content from others. But whatever works for you, do it consistently across multiple platforms.

9. Publish content “off-site”.  Supposedly, guest blogging for SEO purposes is dead. While that may be true for SEOs trying to do it on a large scale for the sake of backlinks, it’s certainly not true when it comes to building your personal reputation. You don’t have to do a lot of it, but having your articles published on high-traffic sites will do wonders for your online reputation. It may rank for your name on its own, but it can also gives quality backlinks to some of your top sites. It’s also a great credibility builder in your bio.

10. Give interviews. Because of the concern about guest blogging and SEO, many blogs are steering away from guest posts. But they love interviews! It doesn’t matter whether it’s audio, video, or just written. And — even better than with guest blogging — your name is going to be in the title of the post, not just the tagline, and the search engines love that.

11. Fund a movie. For anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, you can become a film producer. “So what,” you ask. IMDB. You’ll automatically get a profile page on IMDB, and that data gets syndicated to hundreds of other sites. Look for films that match your interest and budget on Kickstarter, Indiegogo and other crowdfunding sites. Be sure that it specifies that you’ll get IMDB credit, else the only benefit will be feeling good about supporting an up-and-coming filmmaker.

12. Make a plan to keep all of this information up-to-date. Start by going back and updating your BrandYourself and Google+ profiles with all these new profiles you’ve created.  Plan on checking everything at least a couple of times a year to make sure nothing’s broken. Make sure you have all of the information in one place so that if you have a major update to your bio or links, you know where to go and what to do.

Finally, keep in mind that all of these things are just outward signs — your reputation starts with your character.  Treat people right, speak well of others, create value wherever you go, and you won’t have to work nearly as hard at building and protecting your reputation.

Scott Allen is one of the true pioneers of social media, helping individuals and businesses turn virtual relationships into real business since 2002. He’s coauthor of The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online and The Emergence of The Relationship Economy, and a contributor to over a dozen books on entrepreneurship, marketing, social media and other business topics. He is currently Director of Client Solutions for Momentum Factor, a digital marketing agency exclusively serving the direct selling industry. For fun, he enjoys spending time with family, making music, coaching entrepreneurs, pug snuggling, and bending Google to his will.

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Sarah Harris

    June 2, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    You really cover it all! Love the information about BrandYourself and claiming additional social media profiles. I’m definitely going to bookmark this 🙂

  2. Nathan718

    June 6, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Great article. I haven’t run across BrandYourself before. I’ll definitely have to check some of these out

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Social Media

MeWe – the social network for your inner Ron Swanson

MeWe, a new social media site, seems to offer everything Facebook does and more, but with privacy as a foundation of its business model. Said MeWe user Melissa F., “It’s about time someone figured out that privacy and social media can go hand in hand.”

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Let’s face it: Facebook is kind of creepy. Between facial recognition technology, demanding your real name, and mining your accounts for data, social media is becoming increasingly invasive. Users have looked for alternatives to mainstream social media that genuinely value privacy, but the alternatives to Facebook have been lackluster.

MeWe is poised to change all of that, if it can muster up a network strong enough to compete with Facebook. On paper, the new social media site seems to offer everything Facebook does and more, but with privacy as a foundation of its business model. Said MeWe user Melissa F., “It’s about time someone figured out that privacy and social media can go hand in hand.”

MeWe prioritizes privacy in every aspect of the site, and in fact, users are protected by a “Privacy Bill of Rights.” MeWe does not track, mine, or share your data, and does not use facial recognition software or cookies. (In fact, you can take a survey on MeWe to estimate how many cookies are currently tracking you – apparently I have 18 cookies spying on me!)

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You don’t have to share that “as of [DATE] my content belongs to me” status anymore.

Everything you post on MeWe belongs to you – the site does not try to claim ownership over your content – and you can download your profile in its entirety at any time. MeWe doesn’t even pester you with advertising. Instead of making money by selling your data (hence the hashtag #Not4Sale) or advertising, the site plans to profit by offering additional paid services, like extra data and bonus apps.

So what does MeWe do? Everything Facebook does, and more. You can share photos and videos, send messages or live chat. You can also attach voice messages to any of your posts, photos, or videos, and you can create Snapchat-like disappearing content.

You can also sync your profile to stash content in your personal storage cloud. Everything you post is protected, and you can fine-tune the permission controls so that you can decide exactly who gets to see your content and who doesn’t – “no creepy stalkers or strangers.”

MeWe is available for Android, iOS, desktops, and tablets.

This story was originally published in January 2016, but the social network suddenly appears to be gaining traction.

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Social Media

How to spot if your SEO, PPC, social media marketing service provider is a con-artist

(BUSINESS) When hiring a professional, did you know there are actual questions you can ask to spot a con-artist? Too often, we trust our guts and go with the gregarious person, but too much is on the line to keep doing that with your business.

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In this day and age the cult of positive thinking and “the law of attraction” are still very much alive and well in the business services industry. Here are a few simple questions that you can ask prospective business service providers to help you gauge if they are the real deal or just caught up in the fad of “say yes to everything,” or “outsource everything” being populated online by countless “thought leaders” and cult gurus.

Lots of people will ask, “What’s the harm of people trying to make something of themselves?”

Well, I’m here to tell you there is a huge harm in taking risks with a client’s money and manipulating people into trusting their “expertise” when they have none.

Business owners: Due diligence is more important than ever these days.

There are whole communities of people helping to prop each-other up as experts in fields they know nothing about while outsourcing their tasks with little or no oversight into the actual work being done on your behalf.

It is nearly impossible for you to tell if this is even going on. Don’t worry. I am here to help you avoid a con-artist.

How? By showing you how to weed out the bad actors by asking really simple questions.

This set of questions is perfect for people who need to distinguish if the expert they are talking is really just an expert in bullshit with a likeable personality.

Why do these questions work? Because people who are into this kind of stuff are rarely hesitant to talk about it when you ask them direct questions. They believe that what they are doing is a good thing and so they are more open to sharing this information with you because they think by you by asking that you are also into similar things.

It is a fun little trick I picked up while learning to do consumer polling and political surveying.

The Questions:

  • Who influences you professionally?
  • Do you follow any “thought leaders” “gurus” or coaches? If so, who?
  • What “school” of thought do you ascribe to in your profession, and where do you learn what you know?
  • Are there any industry standards you do not agree with?
  • How do you apply the services you offer to your own company?
  • Can you please tell me the background of your support staff and can I see their CV’s?
  • Do you outsource or white label any of the work your company does?
  • May we audit your process before buying your services?
  • May we discuss your proposed strategies with others in your industry to ensure quality?
  • Would you be open to speaking with an independent consultant that is knowledgeable about your industry about your proposals?
  • Can you show me examples of your past successful jobs?
  • Do you have any industry accepted certifications and how many hours of study do you do in a year to keep your knowledge up-to-date and current?
  • How many clients have you had in the past?
  • How many clients do you have currently?
  • How many clients are you able to handle at one time?
  • How many other clients do you have that are in the same industry as my company?
  • How long is your onboarding process before we start getting down to actually making changes to help solve the issues my company is facing?
  • Can you explain to me the steps you will take to identify my company’s needs?
  • Have you ever taken a course in NLP or any other similar course of study?
  • Have you ever been a part of a Multi-Level Marketing company?
  • Fun. Right? Well, we aren’t done.

    It is not just enough to ask these questions… you have to pay attention to the answers, as well as the WAY they are answering questions.

    And you also have to RESEARCH the company after you get your answers to make sure they ring true.

    You cannot keep accepting people at face value, not when the risk is to your business, employees, and clients. There is little to no risk for a person who is being dishonest about their capabilities and skill sets. They will walk away with your money, ready to go find another target for a chance meeting that seems amazingly perfect.

    Do not leave your business decisions to chance encounters at networking events. Research before saying yes.

    No matter how likeable or appealing the person you are speaking with is.

    How do you research? Easy. THE INTERNET. Look at the website of the company you are considering working with.

    • Does it look professional? (do not use your website as a standard for professional unless you have had it done by a professional)
    • Can you see a list of their past clients?
    • Do they effectively tell their story as a company or are they just selling?
    • What do their social media profiles look like? Do they have many followers? Are they updated regularly?
    • Do they have any positive reviews on social sites? (Yelp, Facebook, Linkedin, etc)

    You can also do some simple things like running SEO Website Checkers on their websites. There are tons of these online for free and they will give you a pretty good indicator of if they are using best practices on their websites – you can even do this research on their clients’ websites.

    Also, if you know anything about SpyFu, you can run their website through that to see how they are doing their own online marketing (the same can be said for their clients if they are selling this service).

    Facebook also has a cool section that shows you ads that a Page is running. You can find this info connected to their business Page as well as the Pages they manage for their clients as well. None of these things automatically disqualify a potential service provider, but their answers the question of “why” things are the way there are might be very illuminating to you as a business owner.

    This may seem like a lot of work, and it can be if you do not do these things regularly and have them down to a system, but the cost of not doing these things is way too high. A con-artist is born every day, thanks to the internet.

    You have a right as a business owner considering services from a vendor to ask these questions.

    They also have the responsibility as a service provider to answer these questions in a professional manner. Sometimes the way in which they answer the questions is far more important than the actual answer.

    If all of this seems too overwhelming for you to handle, that is okay.

    • You can ask one of your staff in your company to take on this role and responsibility.
    • You can hire someone to come in and help you with these decisions (and you can ask them all the same questions as above before taking their services).
    • You can reach out to other business owners in your network to see if they have recommendations for someone who could help you with things.
    • Heck, you can even call up companies that look like they are doing as well as you want to be doing online and ask them who they are using for their services. Try successful companies in other industries as your competitor won’t likely be interested in sharing their secrets with you…

    What is important is that you are asking questions, researching, and ultimately making sure that you are doing as much as possible to ensure making the best decision for your company.

    Final thoughts:

    “But, Jay, what’s wrong with taking a risk on an up-and-comer?”

    The answer to that is NOTHING. There is nothing wrong with taking a chance on someone. Someone being green doesn’t make them a con-artist.

    The issue I am raising is in the honest portrayal of businesses and their capabilities. It is about honesty.

    I am a huge fan of working with people who are new and passionate about an industry. But I only work with people who are honest with me about who they are, what they can do, and how their processes work.

    I have worked with tons of people who are still learning on the job. It can be quite educational for a business owner as well.

    Just make sure they are being honest about everything up front. You are no obligated to give anyone a chance when it comes to your businesses success, and it’s not right that someone might manipulate you into doing so.

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Social Media

Facebook struggles to regulate itself (but better – regulators are salivating for their chance)

(MEDIA SPOTLIGHT) Facebook is being called to the carpet by another nation’s regulators, and if they can’t put users first, the weight of international regulations could destroy all that they’ve built.

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Regulations are likely headed Facebook’s way unless the company embraces change. Facebook erroneously (and we believe purposely) calls themselves as a tech company rather than a media company to skirt federal and international regulations. After an inquiry with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Facebook countered that people instead of regulators should have the power to decide what’s seen on their news feed.

Is this true?

The Facebook news feed is constructed through the company’s algorithms, catering to ad content and suggested posts. In its response to the ACCC, Facebook stated that 98% of its revenue comes from selling ads per the Audience Network publishers and advertisers.

Many of us can agree our feeds clog up quite easily — sometimes I have to fish to see posts from the people I care about. “Deciding what I want to see” is a nebulous phrase which at times has me choking on Bored Panda content because I enjoyed ONE video. ONE.

Although the ACCC’s findings did not conclude any inappropriate market use by Facebook, the report suggested policy changes. Facebook has agreed to partner with regulators to create suitable policies to control the flow of unwarranted news and advertising.

The company is still resisting any government regulation.

Here’s the space between a rock and a hard place. As long as Facebook is a prominent source of news and content, governments will swoop in to try to tame the social media beast, and their idea of regulation may lead to a slippery slope in regards to free expression.

The pressure is on Facebook and other social media platforms to stop the bleeding themselves. For now. Policy change from within the company is the safest road to harmony between those of us who just want to see memes from friends and the empty rage articles claiming newsworthy content.

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