As the CEO, CFO, or CTO of your company, there’s no shortage of tasks that fall under your purview. But there’s one specific activity that you may not think of until it’s too late: managing your own online reputation.
Why does your online reputation matter? Just as most people Google the name of a company prior to doing business with it, the same is done for the individuals we do business with. And the way they choose to interact with you (if at all) can be heavily influenced by what they see on the first page of search results.
Picture Credit: Sora Shimazaki
Let’s take a closer look at the 7 things that, as a C-suite exec, you must know when it comes to managing your online reputation.
Your Online Reputation Matters
As an executive of your company, it is IMPERATIVE that you address and manage your personal online reputation because it can have a significant impact on your business and your bottom line. This is no exaggeration. Imagine this scenario: You’re considering two boutique tech companies and do a quick search on their technology execs to help inform your final decision.
- Company A’s CTO has a LinkedIn profile, bylined articles in industry publications, and a press release mentioning an award on the first page of her search results.
- Company B’s CTO has search results consisting of SoundCloud music links, Facebook posts, and his personal blog from 2016.
Which company would you contact first? If you’re like most of us, you’d walk away from those searches feeling a little stronger about Company A, not because you discovered something bad about Company B’s CTO, but simply because you got a better feeling about Company A. Don’t ignore the opportunity costs that come from ignoring your online reputation.
You Must Take an Online Inventory
The old saying “you don’t know what you don’t know” holds especially true when it comes to your online reputation. How do you know what is being said about you, if anything, if you aren’t looking? That’s why it’s so important to take an inventory of what’s out there about you.
A basic Google or Bing search is a great place to start. Search your name in quotation marks (e.g. “Sameer Somal”). If you have a common name or find you’re getting a number of irrelevant results, add qualifiers to your search like your title (e.g. “Sameer Somal” “CEO”), your location (e.g. “Sameer Somal” “Alexandria” and/or your brand (e.g. “Sameer Somal” “Blue Ocean”).
But don’t stop with just Google or Bing. Go into specific social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others and perform similar searches there. Make a note of what you find. Are you in the B2C industry? Check out review sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, and others for mentions of your name specifically and your brand in general. And for execs of B2B companies, check sites like G2 and CrowdReviews, as they may mention you.
Don’t forget about sites like Glassdoor, where current and former employees are invited to anonymously dish on companies and executives. Now is not the time to cut corners or try to save your feelings; when you’re taking an inventory, you want to get a true baseline of the current state of your online reputation. No matter if it is good, bad, somewhere in between, or utterly nonexistent.
Review Your Competition
As you’re getting a sense your own reputation in the online arena, take a look at your competition. What CEOs in your space are doing well, getting lots of positive coverage, great press mentions, and impressive search results?
Picture Credits: Lina Kivaka
Which execs did you expect to see but have to dig to find any mention of? Are any of your competitors flat out doing it wrong, and what mistakes have they been making?
Identify what your competition is doing well so that you can borrow, emulate, and/or improve upon it. Pinpoint what they’re doing poorly so that you can avoid it. Doing these things will help inform your own online strategy.
Remember: When You’re Online, Your Personal Life Isn’t Personal
The COVID crisis has turned our living rooms into our offices, and the personal and professional are now more blurred than ever before. The privacy settings of your personal Facebook account may be set to “friends only,” but the blurry-eyed photo of you at your buddy’s bachelor party could be wide open and available to the world.
The same goes for your wedding announcement, your name in the church bulletin, your recent political or nonprofit donations, your speeding ticket mentioned in the local paper’s police blotter, or any number of other things. If you have never done an inventory of your online reputation, I suspect you’ll be surprised, and perhaps a bit frightened, by what you find. Which leads us to our next point…
You Must Control What You Can Control
When it comes to the online environment, there are a number of things you simply can’t control, such as:
- Google’s algorithm that determines which search results show up first
- The fact that someone with the same name as you did something bad
But thankfully, there are a number of things you can control that can have a positive impact on your overall online reputation.
For example, imagine that another “Sameer Somal” was convicted of stealing 100 bags of potato chips from a local supermarket, and when people Googled my name, the top results that came up kept leading them to reports of this awful situation. Not good! One of the first things I’d do is immediately start adding my middle initial to everything I did and every account I had, from the byline on this blog post, to my LinkedIn profile, to my email signature. All to help differentiate myself from the chip-stealing Sameer. I may even go so far as to write a post on this blog about the situation.
If something like this happened to you, I’d recommend bulking up all of the “owned” profiles you control—on your own website, your LinkedIn profile, your Facebook profile, your Twitter account—with unique, updated content so that the search engines have a reason to visit and index that content more often. The name of the game here is to differentiate yourself and make your various profiles as attractive as possible to search engines.
Continually Monitor Your Online Presence
Earlier, I talked about the importance of creating an inventory of your online brand. But just as in your real life, your online reputation and your digital presence evolve constantly. So if you want an updated snapshot of your brand reputation you must monitor your online presence continuously. Certainly, you could just Google yourself daily, but I’m guessing like most execs your time is limited. Thankfully, there are a handful of tools that can help automate the process. Here are a few that I like:
Google Alerts: The grandfather of all alerts tools, at a minimum you should be running Google Alerts on your own name to stay abreast of information about you that pops up online. If you do nothing else, ensure you do at least this.
Brand 24: This monitoring tool searches across social, news, blogs, videos, forums, podcasts, reviews, and more. It includes sentiment analysis so you have a sense of if the conversation about you is good, bad, or indifferent.
Mention: Another great monitoring tool, Mention searches among press articles, review sites, forums, and blogs, along with Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Consider Working with an Expert Sooner Rather Than Later
Certainly, as a CEO you have a vested interest in protecting your online reputation. But as we’ve seen, there’s a lot of work that goes into making that happen. From performing an exhaustive inventory to get a baseline of where your reputation currently stands to identify areas within and beyond your control and monitoring for potential threats, maintaining a good online reputation can take a lot of time and effort.
That’s why many CEOs choose to invest in expert assistance. Working with an experienced online reputation management firm means that you can focus your energy on your business, and let your reputation management team handle the tedious day-to-day tasks associated with keeping your online reputation stellar.
An Investment In Your Sanity and Your Business
Your personal online reputation can impact your business and your bottom line, so it’s imperative, as an executive, to take control of your online brand. Consider working with an experienced online reputation management firm to help streamline the online reputation inventory, monitoring, and management process. If you’re like many busy executives, it’s a worthy investment in both your sanity and your business.