Google’s mission statement is to:
“Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
They further state that “Since the beginning, our goal has been to develop services that significantly improve the lives of as many people as possible. Not just for some. For everyone.”
It sounds like a very altruistic purpose, but what exactly does this mean for reputation management?
All Information is Available for Everyone
The ‘Good’ and the ‘Bad’, all information is available for everyone to access. Although intended to improve everyone’s lives, and there is no doubt they have, this has also led to viral content, cyber bullies, public shaming, and the occasional widespread misuse of information.
It means all the information both good and bad is available for potential employers, credit lines, and even school admission boards. If someone doesn’t have any facts about them online, it’s potentially worse; they don’t exist digitally, it seems like they are hiding something.
The Information is Organized In the Best Way Possible
No system is perfect, and with the task of organizing the world’s information, no doubt some results get favored over others. This is made worse by the problem that everyone wants their own voice to be heard above the rest.
Many marketing companies don’t care much about why their client needs to be heard in a lot of cases. Sadly, nor does the client care if they are not the best fit for their targeted search terms.
When thinking about online reputation, remember that Google strives to not only organize information and make it accessible but to make it useful. If you are trying to manage your own reputation or your company’s success in search, consider what is useful to your followers or customers, and aim to rank for those search terms. Then you will be helping Google fulfill their mission, increasing your chances of success, and helping your customers.
Incorrect Results Are Not Only Possible But Probable.
Web crawling machines are not very good at determining if information is good or bad, correct or incorrect, right or wrong, or even useful in most cases. Google spends a lot of time and money on trying to make search results as useful as possible, but no system is perfect, and search algorithms mainly determine if a result matches, not if it’s right.
They match a large number of parameters, and a websites’ popularity features fairly high on those. Popular sites get shared, which again increases their visibility on Google. This can be seen when searching for a term with multiple meanings, for example, a search for the term ‘black hat’ is now populated with hacker descriptions, this is apparently a more popular meaning than headwear. It also means if a wrong result is featured on a popular site or regularly, it tends to rank high in search. This, unfortunately, means if you have wrong information about yourself shared it can be hard to remove it.
It’s not impossible, it just requires a dedicated effort. Maybe even, professional help.
You Need to Create Your Own Content Or Others Will
Having all the world’s information available means if you want to compete in creating an online reputation, you need to start creating your own content. This means websites, books and eBooks, guest posts, contributions to content mills, and social media interaction.
If the only information that turns up about you is created by someone else, you are subject to other’s description of you, not your own, and depending on the type of media is available you may appear digitally shallow. To put your best foot forward, create the content you want others to see.
There’s a BIG Need to Manage Your Social Media
All the information available is both a blessing and curse of the digital age. We’re essentially judged by everything we do, and social media is no exception.
In the early days of Twitter, a senior director of communications at Interactive Corp found out just how damaging this could be. A flippant tweet sent to a friend before boarding a plane ended her holiday and her job when it released an almost instant racial backlash. From only 170 followers, it was retweeted worldwide, and before her plane landed 11 hours later, it had created an international uproar. This is not isolated at all; many people have lost jobs because of poorly thought out social media posts.
Self-made billionaire investor Warren Buffet comments that a reputation takes a lifetime to build and moments to destroy. Not thinking clearly what you or your friends do with social media in a world where everything is available to everyone can have disastrous consequences.
Reputation Management Tactics
To ensure your reputation stays intact, you need to apply strategic online reputation management.
We have both the good and the bad with freely available information, and it’s a fact of life that bad news seems to spread more quickly than good … every single time.
To counteract that we need to become our own spokesperson.
Imagine you’ve accidentally said too much at the staff Christmas party after a few drinks, would your manager appreciate you going offline, or coming instantly back with an apology?
What about a case of inappropriate consumer rage which is recorded and tweeted. Again apologize. We all have our moments when we lose our cool, your followers appreciate knowing you are human, come straight back and explain how sorry you are.
The same approach is needed if we have a product defect, or make a mistake in a media interview.
We all mess up at times; people do understand that. And if we do, Google’s mission statement ensures it’ll be shared, especially if you are someone who people identify with or have influence in any way.
However, it’s not as important what you do as how you handle it afterward that is important.