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4 tips to manage your online reputation

Published: Friday, Nov. 30 2012 10:55 a.m. MST

FILE - In this Oct. 13, 2009, file photo, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Scoville displays part of the Facebook page, and an enlarged profile photo, of fugitive Maxi Sopo in Seattle. The Feds are on Facebook. And MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter, too. U.S. law enforcement agents are following the rest of the Internet world into popular social-networking services, going undercover with false online profiles to communicate with suspects and gather private information, according to an internal Justice Department document that offers a tantalizing glimpse of issues related to privacy and crime fighting. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Elaine Thompson, AP

This post was originally published on Forbes.com as a follow up to something I had earlier shared on DeseretNews.com. Social media damage control is sometimes a big part of managing your online reputation regardless of whether you are an individual or a business.

My mother always warned me to be careful about what I said and did in public because I never knew who was watching. She was right.

I have to admit that more than once as a teenager I pulled into the driveway to my father asking me about how fast I was driving on my way home. Although I didn’t live in a small town, it was small enough that his friends recognized my car and called him if they thought I was driving a little too fast.

There were no secrets in the community where I grew up.

Although the town I live in now is much bigger than it once was, the Internet and social media have made it a much smaller place. What’s more, as individuals and businesses, the need to manage and protect your reputation is just as important today — and likely takes a little more attention than it once did.

For example, some colleagues and I were discussing this yesterday when one of them mentioned a friend of his who had driven down to Las Vegas to meet a boy she’d been flirting with online and over the phone for several weeks. Apparently, after meeting in person, he said he needed to grab his wallet out of the car and would be right back — he never returned. He cowardly slipped away into the night, never to be seen again.

It wasn’t that unusual of a story. Without making excuses for obviously rude behavior, I’m sure it sometimes happens when people meet and for whatever reasons don’t have any chemistry. What makes this situation different is the reaction of her friends and a very hostile blog one of them wrote regarding his less than chivalrous behavior, calling him out by name.

I Googled his name to see if the blog post had come up in search yet, but didn’t see anything. However, if the friends of this mistreated young woman have anything to say about it, they’ll likely beat this drum until it does.

A couple years ago I had a colleague comment that he was glad social media wasn’t around when he was in college or he’d have had a lot of explaining to do in job interviews. It was the result of one of his younger friends complaining about having missed out on a potential job because photos of him at a party with a number of drunken fraternity brothers was posted and made public on his Facebook.

A few months back I commented on how I felt about employers who require job applicants to make their Facebook profile public to them, however anyone’s public profile should be considered up for grabs. Unfortunately for the Mr. Wrong described above, his less-than-gentlemanly behavior will become part of the public record, searchable by potential employers or a future spouse and will definitely call his integrity into question.

Let me suggest four tips that will help you effectively manage your online reputation:

1. Don’t forget your brand is every touch point

If you’re like me, your Facebook and Google+, and other social media accounts include close friends, family members and a number of your professional associates. I try not to say or do anything on social media that would poorly reflect on my personal brand. What’s more, I don’t think you could keep them separate (and private) even if you tried. Therefore, I don’t mind sharing my personal interests with my friends, but I am careful that anything I promote online doesn’t reflect negatively on my professional image.

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