Top Five Tips for Building a Better Online Brand

You won’t get hired or you will be fired if you don’t manage your cyber reputation

By Nicole Raphael, MA

Once upon a time it was believed that you could candidly share yourself, quirks and all, with your close friends and family on Facebook, Myspace, FourSquare, Flickr, YouTube etc. and still keep your professional reputation intact at work.  This was a fine strategy if your weekend activities included a few outdoor activities, charity work and going to church.  However, it may surprise some readers that many professionals lead a double life.  Visiting social media sites certainly proves this point.  It appears that many unassuming professionals are uber-achieving superstars in the office and party-hard rock stars during the weekend.   If you fall into the rock star category, or if you haven’t taken a close look at your online reputation, then the five tips below will help you clean up your act so that your online personal brand is the picture of perfection.

1.       There is NO privacy online

The days of online anonymity are over.  We all learned from Anthony Weiner that tweeting your peter can kill your career; but now, it’s not enough to be cautious with what you post on your personal social media platforms yourself, it’s also necessary to remain vigilant amongst “social” friends as well.   Take for example the High School teacher was suspended after someone posted a Facebook picture of her with a male stripper at a bridal shower.  She was made guilty by association.  Make sure your friends and family are aware of your desire to remain discreet with what you post online. Remember: There is nowhere to hide on the internet.

2.       Ramp-up your security

Immediately set up “secure” passwords and permissions for your social sites.  Don’t make it easy for someone to cyber-stock you or invade your privacy.   The policies on social media sites are usually quite transparent and if you’re not comfortable with the level of your exposure or the uses of your data, then consider your options accordingly.   It’s important to note that the standard security settings for social sites are usually the least protective, so always try to customize the settings so that they give you the highest level of protection.  Platforms such as Facebook and have gotten progressively better at allowing you to protect your privacy from prying eyes – others will follow suit.  Read more about Facebook and privacy here.

3.       Get to know your online reputation

Have you ever Googled yourself? If not, do that now.  The most important information to note is what comes up on the first few pages in a search.  Not many people look for information beyond that.  Your online reputation is kicking butt if you appear on the first page of a Google Search at least three times.  Ignore the “All PR is good PR” adage.  You want favourable mentions to appear first and foremost.   We’ll discuss reputation damage management below.

In addition to running a Google search, pop your name into a few web-based tools that are popular with HR & hiring managers such as and  These paid-for services pull public records and demographic information.  For a more integrated approach, is gaining popularity due to the fact that the tool considers public records, social media mentions and multimedia.

To check your personal impact on the social media world, I like to visit which judges search queries based on a variety of criteria including strength, sentiment, passion, and reach.

4.       Build your online brand

Crafting your online persona is a multi-faceted process and it differs in important ways from your in-person brand.  The three important factors in web-based personal branding are:  The way you act, the way and how often you talk, the way you present yourself.  You are actively building your brand whether you are blogging, Tweeting, updating your Facebook profile picture, or offering a comment in one of your LinkedIn groups.  The more authentic and engaging you are – the more you will attract people to your personal brand.   You also want to ensure that you’re found online because you don’t have a brand if you’re not Googleable.  One fast way to build your online reputation in your job search is to customize your LinkedIn domain so that you name appears in your URL.  For example my LinkedIn URL is:   Go to Edit Profile.  Select Edit Public Profile.   Choose customize your public profile URL.  Input your first and last name so that your activity will come up on a Google search.

5.       Manage the Damage

Horror of horrors. In doing your Google search a picture of you at the last “Little Black Dress” party in something VERY little pops up on page one.  Or worse, a YouTube video of you bashing your employer in a *funny* but career devastating acoustic jingle went viral.    The last example actually happened.

Former Starbucks employee Chris Cristwell posted a spoof video online.  As a result Starbucks fired him, so he wrote a farewell song as well.  I laughed out loud watching this.  But when the music stopped I thought about Chris’s online reputation.   He’s 25 now.   How long is this bit of fun going to haunt him and affect his prospects with future employers?

Social media mistakes happen every day.  The key to managing your online brand is to painstakingly monitor what is being communicated about yourself in cyberspace.  Set up a reverse search service such as Google Alerts and take quick and decisive action to eliminate untactful pictures, comment on any responses to blog postings, and remove multi-media that’s in bad taste.  You can also hire an online brand & reputation manager to build and monitor your brand.

2 Responses to Top Five Tips for Building a Better Online Brand
  1. David
    January 18, 2012 | 11:37 pm

    Note: try stalk for stock after cyber-

    • John Heckers
      January 19, 2012 | 12:18 am

      My mistake. I’ll correct it. Thanks.

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