Maintaining a positive online image has become a task everyone with a Facebook account needs to keep track of. Some celebrities and multi-million dollar organizations, who can afford to hire expensive publicists and PR firms, can’t even keep a firm grasp on their online brand identity. But normal people can’t afford to have a team of publicists working for us like Britney Spears. When it comes to managing your own online reputation you are your own best publicist; no one else has better access to your information than your number one client, yourself.

Do not ruin your online reputation by posting harmful or slanderous statements about ex’s or former employers. If you left someone on bad terms, you should keep it to yourself and not publicize it to the whole world where it can fall into the wrong hands. If you are tagged in a Facebook photo or other dubious image you don’t feel comfortable with, the polite thing to do is ask if the poster can remove it. If they refuse to do so, you need to distance yourself from that user.

If you are using your personal website as a way to gain freelance work, make affiliate money, or land a job; then your site needs to emphasize your best skills. You should separate many, if not all, personal aspects of your life from your professional aspirations. Clients and employers will see how serious you are about your trade or craft and will even take you into extra consideration when making final hiring decisions.

It is possible for a potential employer to perform a Google name search or a reverse phone lookup and uncover more about you than you even know existed. Not only are your personal blog posts, websites, and social media accounts susceptible to scrutiny; your friends can post incriminating photos or information about you that can be used against any positive character references you might be disregarded.
If you are not sure of your online indiscretions, the best course of action to take is to completely eliminate yourself from the fray and start from scratch. It is possible to create new Facebook and Twitter profiles, but it is not as easy to erase the stigma of an embarrassing online presence. Most industry professionals attend the same networking events and being blackballed from your profession is not a great career move.

With the correct attitude and the proper discretion you can avoid common mistakes and pitfalls for controlling your own online brand. If you are successful, you might even be able to start your own consulting business or teach a PR course at the local community college.

Guest post by Karen Arnold, a reputation and online identity specialist.

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