Shakespeare, in Act 2 of his circa 1603 play Othello, said it best: Reputation, reputation, reputation. It is the original personal brand and one of the defining realities of our lives. For Solopreneur consultants and other self-employed professionals, reputation governs the number and quality of projects made available to us and therefore, reputation impacts our income and the kind of life we’re able to live. It pays, in more ways than one, to cultivate a peerless reputation and guard it vigorously.
In the internet age that is especially so, in both the personal and professional sectors. Mistakes and mischaracterizations made in digital formats are extremely difficult to dodge, ignore, deny, or correct. One’s online reputation is the ultimate flypaper. Take steps to ensure that what sticks to your name is all good.
Along with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest are the sites where images of you are most likely to be posted, by yourself and others. When cameras are around, meaning whenever anyone has a cell phone, which is about 24/7, make sure that your behavior represents you and your brand well.
There’s nothing wrong with being photographed in an obviously casual gathering. Just make sure that you (or others) are not in the midst of activities that could be misconstrued and reflect poorly on you sometime in the future. If you regularly appear in photos that you know or suspect will be posted to social media sites, counteract with a photo of your own that shows you at work, paid or volunteer. Balance your accounts, so to speak, and show that there is more to you than non-stop partying.
Create and regularly post original content that makes you look smart, professional and successful. On your LinkedIn account, announce when you will attend a symposium, serve on a panel, teach a course or workshop and definitely broadcast the good news if you’ve recently earned a professional certification or advanced degree.
If you’ve presented a webinar, request the replay and turn it into a podcast for your website and YouTube. If you write a newsletter or blog, link it to your website and LinkedIn. If you’re on Twitter or Instagram, produce streams of high-quality feed and images that convey the competencies and values that you want to be known for.
Twitter, Instagram and Facebook can feature glimpses into your personal life as well and it could all be for the good, as long as you are strategic about what is revealed. Your volunteer work is always a safe bet. Training for a marathon or even a fun and casual volleyball or softball league would be excellent. Your parent’s wedding anniversary party would make another good personal aspect to include in your online narrative. Be aware that narrative is the operative word. Create the story that you want to be told, in a manner that makes you look wonderful.
About every three months, search your name and your company name in engines such as Bing, Google and Yahoo and see what comes up in the first 50 listings. Are you happy with what you see? Try keywords related to your business along with your city and check your professional reach in a more profound way.
If you find that your business has been reviewed in a negative and inaccurate way, contact the reviewing site and request that the offending post be removed. If customers have offered criticism that just may be constructive, address the matter. Apologize and offer your side of the story. Make amends if possible. By doing so, you’ll add to your credibility and customer service reputation.
It’s been reported that 70% of U.S. employment recruiters have rejected potential job candidates when something about them that was considered unsavory appeared on social media. Solopreneurs should assume that prospective clients will do the same. Maintaining and monitoring your online reputation has never been more important.