online reputation

When we grew up our parents worried if we stayed out past the streetlights or they feared us doing something stupid and the next-door neighbors finding out.

Today we have bigger things to worry about with our kids (and our businesses) online.  Reputation and brand management starts very early! Instead of worrying about what the neighbors will think, we need to worry about what the world will think when Google finds out! What will job recruiters, future customers, and college admissions counselors think when they check out our social media channels?  I have 4 kids, all grown thankfully, and as my kids were growing up in the new digital age, I was constantly teaching them how to keep a clean digital footprint. I taught them (and their friends) early about the importance of having positive content showing up when someone Google’s their name. If you have nothing out there on the web (hard to do these days) and then one negative thing is posted, it’s very hard to dilute that. When you have 20 positive articles or posts about the good things you are doing, the one negative thing get’s folded in and it’s less painful. I’ve had directors and heads of organizations who have no blog posts, media interviews, or any trace of their existence online and then someone writes a negative article about them… that stings.

Last month I got a call from a father asking if he could hire us to help his son who got into some social media trouble. I explained that we were neither a crisis management firm nor a group of attorneys but I’d be happy to offer any help I could. The entire family came in. The son and a few friends had created a mean-spirited (and plain STUPID) social media account that they thought was anonymous. They posted some mean posts about a few other students and then as if that wasn’t stupid enough, they each liked the posts from their personal accounts. This family wanted to know how they could take down all of the posts that people were spreading. Well, lesson one is, nothing is private…NOTHING! Someone told someone and screenshots were taken and spread around with their names with petitions to get all students to write to the college admissions offices that each of the boys was heading off to. The boy who sat in front of me had been awarded a full-ride scholarship for sports. Lesson two, once it’s out there… IT’S OUT THERE! I used to say, “Once you tweet, you can’t delete” but it really is “When meanness is spread, your reputation is DEAD… almost!”

I wanted to put them all on the “naughty bench” for a 5-year time out! First, what teen hasn’t been taught the lessons of online management by the time he or she is in high school? Second, what parent doesn’t stay involved in the tools of the day so they can advise and teach their children how to use them wisely. It really does have to start when kids are in grade school. Perhaps earlier.  After I lectured that boy as if he were my own son, I told them the sad truth… you can’t remove it. The posts and retweets are out there. I advised him to stay out of trouble, spend the next 6 months doing community service, and find new friends.

brand management
Today’s youth have grown up social.  They have their own YouTube channels and Facebook pages by the time they are 10 (or younger). Some have blogs and websites before junior high. They manage complex social circles and post photos of themselves and their friends EVERYWHERE.  Their parents are also blogging about them, sharing embarrassing photos with others on Facebook, and posting videos of little Johnny playing the tuba in the school play on YOUTUBE (usually not in a channel or set to private because mom and dad haven’t figured out how to do that). One study commissioned by security company AVG found that 92% of infants have an online presence by the time they are TWO! Moms post sonograms and infant pics all over their networks.

In business, we want to know where our name and our company brand is being talked about, and we even have tools to find out and manage our brands. You can set up Google Alerts, and use services like Brand Mention to send you notices when your name (or keywords) are mentioned in blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other places.  What about for your kids?  Don’t be naive and assume they are not using any of these tools.  If they are old enough to text message or type on a computer (approximately age 2 these days), they are creating Google tracks.

Remember a brand isn’t just about the information YOU put out there.  It is what your customers and others say about you out there.  When I say Walmart, what is the BRAND IMAGE you get? Low cost, cheap, yellow happy face-dude?  When I say Comcast or any other cable company, what is the BRAND IMAGE you get? And that doesn’t come from what they are saying out there…it comes from what others are saying about them.   When was the last time you Googled your name? Your company’s name? Your KIDS names? Do it…with them sitting right next to you…so you can have these conversations.  Don’t only check web results, but check images, videos, etc.

The fear of having one’s kids show up in ANY Google search can send chills of fear down the spine of most parents and cause many to pull internet cables out of the house altogether, but we can’t cripple our children by not allowing them to build a positive brand for themselves online either (after all your child just might become a gazillionaire for creating the next Facebook or Shopify).  NOW is the time to teach them about reputation management and a safe online presence.  Now is the time for YOU to learn about the importance of online brand management and reputation building.

If nothing shows up when you search your name or your company’s name (aside from the website that you hopefully have with the same domain), what can you do to change that so positive posts and threads of your brilliance show up in searches?  If you have a common name, what can you do to capitalize on your product or service brand?  Perhaps starting that blog you’ve been talking about would give you enough regular Google tracks that you can rise to the top of your name search! Offer to write articles or blog posts (pretty much the same thing these days depending on where it is shared) on other people’s websites or magazines. Creating content in any form (video, audio, written) on a regular basis and sharing it, will help you begin to build and influence the brand you’d like to have.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and any tips on how you keep your kids safe, while still allowing them to utilize the tools of their generation. If you don’t have young children in this digital age category…LUCKY YOU!  What advice would you give those who do (it is usually the child-free who give the best advice to parents 🙂

With so many tools available to leave Google tracks around town or around the globe, we must be intentional to build positive reputations and avoid any negative press.  After all…what would your neighbor’s think?

As always, let me know if I or the team here at SocialKNX can help you and your organization use today’s technology tools to build your business and manage YOUR brand!

@GinaSchreck