Most of us are aware that the Internet is a powerful tool in today’s marketing strategies.  However, the idea of building your reputation online is, seemingly, still a new concept.  In the real world, we totally get it.  We work so hard to build our reputations (whether it’s personal, for a company, brand or product) and then even harder to maintain them.  In the ‘real world’ there are elaborate action plans put in place anytime those reputations come into harms way.  So, it’s curious to me that there are not more people working to build, and protect, their reputations (or that of their company, brand, product) online.  Now, don’t misunderstand, there is a giant handful of those stated who are doing just this, but in the grand scheme of things, building an online reputation just isn’t at the top of the checklist for most of us and I don’t get it.  A part of me chalks this up to inexperience, but what I believe it really boils down to…is fear.  Fear of the unknown – the World Wide Web and all its big brother power.

Here’s the thing that many of us don’t realize – your online reputation already exists.  Either by the things you’ve done online (because nothing is forgotten on the internet) or things you’ve done in the ‘real world’ (go ahead, Google yourself).  As an example, say you’ve donated to the Republican party.  Well those are public records and if I were to do a search for you on Google, those records would likely pop up.  I would then know that you are a Republican, ughh!  My perception of you is already being formulated, not only are you a Republican, but you actually donated to their party.  And, that’s just one little thing you did, it’s not really who you are.  This is a perfect example for why we should all be willing participants in both our ‘real world’ and online reputations.  They are equally as important, and believe me, more people are watching you online than in the ‘real world’ anyway.

Here’s a few tips to getting started.

If you want to build your personal reputation online, then you need to start by visiting a few sites and signing up.  Take control of how you want to be seen online!  Get a LinkedIn account ASAP, then Plaxo, Zoominfo and any other site out there that is a resource for people finding you (and you finding people/companies/services).  You may ask ‘Why do I have to be a part of all of these and not just one?’ and my answer is that these are all useful resources in the business world and why wouldn’t you have accounts with all of them?  The more you interact with different sites, the more exposure you will have when people are looking for the services that you offer.  The more you will look like you know what you’re doing.  And, the more solid and trusted your reputation will be.  The reality IS that you can spend a quick 15 minutes creating each profile and then, at the very least, the information is out there.  You can choose how much time beyond that you want to spend building your network, which I highly recommend you spend the time doing.

If you’re looking to really market yourself (or your company, product, event, etc.), then I suggest creating a business page or group on Facebook and start Twittering today.  These two venues take more time to manage, but if you invest the time to learn how to use them and how they can work for you, then the results are absolutely worth it.  I could go on for pages on how to use these sites, but really, you need to just join them and start watching what other people are doing.  It may take you months of observation before you join in, and that’s ok. Take the time to observe how people are successfully using these sites and ask your friends and colleagues how they use the sites and to show you how it’s worked for them.  Then, make your move and join the conversation.

I know, the Internet and these social sites are scary places.  And, you probably don’t want to be involved with them. But, if your goal is to stay relevant, then you need to jump on the train, put your fear aside and just do it (gotta hand it to Nike…that was a good one!).

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