August 15, 2012

For online reputation, the best defense is a good offense

You can’t ignore the power that search holds for your business

Chris AbrahamIf you’re a serious business person whose business isn’t digital, you’re probably too busy making money to fool around on social media. Social media’s stupid, right? Just baby pictures, workout check-ins, adorable kittens and the self-indulgent ramblings of under-employed folks too far to either the left or the right to amount to much.

Just because you’re old-fashioned doesn’t mean what you’re doing isn’t working.

Big business has adopted many of the tools of the digital age, but it hasn’t gone native — because it doesn’t need to. Big money doesn’t need digital to do big business. It’s just cream — an additional channel for additional revenue.

There’s a lot of business being done and a lot of money being made using ’50s-era technology: phone calls, meetings, conference calls, lunches, dinners and hours at the club or the golf course. The Internet has not usurped the traditional, it has merely enriched it; however, there’s also no barrier to entry so this party isn’t exclusive but it’s super-saturated with powerful influencers and new media gods. So, please beware.

Yes, I know: you’re too busy for all of this rubbish. But the truth is, you cannot afford to let another day pass without sending in your social media and search insurance premium.

While I appreciate how valuable your time is, you’re playing a very dangerous game of Russian Roulette. The reason you’re so accomplished is because you are a shrewd judge of the landscape — and the landscape has changed and it includes not just what’s said by your communications team, your press releases, the New York Times, the Financial Times, or even MarketWatch.

Folks are already talking about you online — or soon will, gladly and badly.

The social media lunatics have taken over the Internet asylum, and unless your very own personal voice, face, story, narrative, history, resume, wins and losses are fed into the Googlesphere, you’re vulnerable to whatever anyone cares to say about you, no matter who. No doors, gates or private security will insulate you from attack, insult and slander.

A bulletproof vest won’t help if you’re not wearing pants

You need to develop your own online song of yourself on the Internet — in advance of any problems you might encounter

There is no armor available to protect you besides the active armor that is your own version of yourself online in the form of your biography, personal history and content, content and more content. You need to get in front of the storm that’s sure to come. You need to develop and populate your own personal Whitmanesque song of yourself onto the Internet, into search-optimized text, links, images and photos — and you need to do it well in advance of any problems you might potentially ever have, no matter how discrete and low-profile you might fancy yourself.

Back in the day, the Internet witch hunt was for politicians, then it became bankers, now it’s evolving toward anyone and everyone who’s thriving in free enterprise and pursuing the American dream, especially as it relates to what’s going on in Washington and the elections. There’s never been a worse time to take your ball and go home. So, it’s better to take some time, get together with your lawyer or business partner, and approve reams of text and start speaking for yourself, your life, your choices and your accomplishments instead of letting someone else speak for you (they’re never nearly as charming as you and your colleagues are, that’s for sure).

“But where?” you ask. Well, you first need to build out any sites you already have, including all your companies, foundations and boards. Next, you should become a blogger — or at least develop a process to produce blog content since Google adores blogs and seriously understands the architecture and framework of most blog platforms. Finally, you should start populating every social network service, social bookmarking site and social news site. Here’s an incomplete though comprehensive list for you to start on:

43 Things, Badoo, Bebo, Blog.com, Blogetry, Blogger, Blogster, CafeMom, Cyworld, delicious, deviantART, Diaspora, Digg , Diigo , douban, eToro, Facebook, Flickr, Flixster, folkd , Foursquare, Friendster, Google+, GovLoop, hi5, italki.com, iWiW, Jaiku, LinkedIn , LiveJournal, Meetup, mixi, Mubi, Myspace, Netlog, Newsvine , Ning, Open Diary, Orkut, Pinboard , Pinterest, Plaxo, Plurk, Posterous, Reddit , Squidoo , StumbleUpon, tribe.net, Tumblr, Twitter, TypePad, Virb, Vox, WordPress.com, Xanga, XING

Share more than you might want to

Do exactly the opposite of what you’d like: Reveal ’til it hurts.

You need to reveal yourself completely — as much as you, your spouse and lawyer agree to, anyway (forget your kids, they’ll be embarrassed, of course) — and you need to give ’til it hurts and well past your normal tendency toward discretion and your obsession with privacy. That Sea-Dweller on your wrist isn’t pretension, it’s because you’ve been a world class Submariner for yours — but you need to come up for air from now on, otherwise, you’re sure to be sunk.

Feel free to own the yacht but hire a crew if you’re not yet seaworthy. If you get my drift and want to adopt the yachting lifestyle yourself but either don’t have the mad sailing skills yourself, don’t yet posses a world-class crew, and don’t know yet where to go, then you should give me a call or reach out me by email — so I can help you pilot your vessel now, in the tranquil blue-green shallows of the Caribbean, as well as in the roughest seas and into — as well as out of — the storm.

Whichever way you go, please start. You can keep it simple and slow, but start today. You can task your Summer Intern (whatever times’ left), you can push it on your PR or communications team, or you can do it yourself — but do it.

It’s essential that you start feeding your best self online before you’re brought down by just about anyone with a device and a connection to the Internet — and you won’t be able to sue your way out of this one, I promise you.

(Disclosure: I am a former employee of Reputation.com and they continue to sponsor my work)Chris Abraham is a partner in Socialmedia.biz. Contact Chris via email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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