For businesses and brands, having and maintaining a positive digital presence, is a growing concern. In fact, many a savvy business is actively investing more time and money in becoming more visible online and protecting themselves from the risk of a reputation crisis.
What you tend to hear less about is how high net worth individuals, such as celebrities, athletes, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, business owners, CEOs, MDs and senior execs promote and protect themselves online. They’re often as much in the public eye as the businesses they own, run or associate with, and their personal digital presence matters as much and is just as subject to scrutiny.
More than ever our online footprints are being used to form opinions about us and dictate opportunities. People ‘Google’ people – and the search results they see is your personal digital presence. Have you ‘Googled’ yourself recently? Do you like what you see, would you work with you? Hire you? Invest in you? Trust you?
You should be worried about your personal digital presence in 2019 because search results are the new CV – your digital presence is being viewed by those interested in everything from recruitment and credit scoring to dating! And first impressions count.
Why is your personal digital presence important? It’s a reputation make or break…
Your personal digital presence defines the way the world sees you. Search engine results are a ‘shop window’, and 90% of people only look at the first page of results. Failing to pay attention to this ‘virtual you’ can cause problems.
In an age where first impressions count and information can be shared with billions (Twitter alone has 67 million users) in the blink of an eye, your personal digital presence can make or break your online reputation in seconds. Warren Buffet once said: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”
In 2019, it takes five seconds to ruin it.
Where do the risks come from?
Sharing information online carries many risks – with potentially serious real and virtual world consequences. Social media platforms, news sites (carrying coverage and profiles) and business forums can all be used to publish and distribute negative content, disclose professional and private activity and details or be exploited by unscrupulous individuals looking to steal sensitive information.
You could have negative press dating back years that is no longer relevant but having a negative impact on how people perceive you. Images from the past may be returning to haunt you, or more.
But isn’t this the curse of the digital world…? EVERYTHING is accessible and online now right? True, but what’s also true is that there’s a blessing in the digital world. And that is that, because the digital world moves so fast, it’s not going to take 20 years to build or rebuild a personal reputation. You can take action to control of your personal digital presence and build a strong personal brand online much quicker now.
Building a strong personal digital presence might sound daunting but it isn’t. There are lots of ways to regain control – and maintain the kind of personal digital presence you can be proud of.
What can you do to take control of your personal digital presence today?
- ‘Google’ yourself, and take a good look at what you see on page 1 of the search results, any related searches, but don’t stop, there, while most people don’t look past page 1, potential employers, business partners, investors and more will, go back a few pages and get a full picture of what appears about you online.
- Conduct a risk assessment or hire a reputation management company to do it for you. Look at anything positive, negative and neutral, and think about what you’d want to see about a potential hire, business partner, investor, etc. Is there anything that might put you off them? Or is there nothing of note that fails to make you want to?
- Set up alerts so that you know as soon as anything new appears online. There are variety of simple tools available (try Google Alerts, Talkwater or Mention to get started).
- It’s worth looking at the online activity of those people linked to you too. If you’re the CEO of a company, what does your association with that brand or its employees say about you? As publicity surrounding the ‘rich kids of Instagram’ shows, relatives of high-net worth individuals maybe over-sharing in way that can affect others’ online personas.
- If there are outdated, defamatory or unfair press articles, or comments think about what you can challenge. Remember, just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean you can get it removed. Sites have policies in place, and sometimes challenging or requesting removal can work against you. Consult reputation experts for advice on this.
- Owning and controlling content is just as important as countering negativity. Work on building profiles, sites and content that rank for your search terms.
Once you have a full and clear picture of your personal digital presence you can then build on it – and ultimately create the right kind of impression.
As well as positive stories and content, consider reviewing privacy settings (a 2017 Experian survey found 28 per cent of Americans ‘rarely’ check theirs). If you encounter genuinely defamatory or malicious content you can ask Google to consider removing it.
Be careful about where you comment.
Social recruitment – how to create a professional digital presence
When it comes to seeking new employment, maintaining a strong personal digital presence is particularly important. In 2019, social media and other online platforms are a key resource for recruiters and hiring managers. 93% of recruiters now name LinkedIn as the most popular in-house digital recruitment platform. Another 70% of employers admit using social media to review potential employees and 54% have rejected candidates because of social media profiles in the past.
Disappearing from the online world isn’t recommended either, with 57% of employers revealing they are less likely to interview a candidate they can’t find online.
Against this backdrop, making sure you have a positive social media presence is important. Make sure you are visible and active on professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn and review existing social media accounts and delete any that are old or inappropriate.
High worth, high risk
For high net worth individuals, executives, managers and senior business leaders there are particular personal online reputation risks to be aware of. Any damage to your personal online reputation can have a negative impact on your professional or business interests.
Research from global PR firm, Weber Shandwick quotes executives as saying that 45 per cent of their company reputation and 44 per cent of its capital value is directly attributable to their CEO’s own reputation. Look at the impact Elon Musk’s reputation had on Tesla’s last year, Travis Kalanick on Uber and Harvey Weinstein on Miramax.
Privacy is another key issue. High-profile individuals need to work harder than others to maintain their privacy, as they can be more vulnerable to data leaks, something that requires continuous and careful monitoring.
Making a commitment to creating a strong personal digital presence is an important first step towards staying in control.