Reputation Management and Creating Expectations
Yesterday, we talked about the hypocrisy of reputation management. In that example, I showed a convicted felon who had gone out of his way to create a perfect Internet image.
Today, I’m going to discuss someone with a potentially soiled Internet image. Me.
I’ve mentioned several times I used to have a real estate blog, but I never provided the proper context of its existence. I began it in the Fall of 2006 just when many popular real estate markets were beginning to see a top in housing prices. From my perspective in Utah, I didn’t see a problem. As I continued writing, it became apparent that I, along with many others, had misjudged.
What I didn’t realize when I started blogging was how passionate (read angry) many people who had been priced out of the housing boom in markets like California, Arizona and Florida had become.
On top of all this, I chose to associate myself with a failed real estate investor from California to help promote my newly launched blog. I soon discovered the perils of blogging under my real name.
You can still see remnants of those times when you do a Google search for me. The Internet never forgets. Sure I’m not going to Federal prison, or pictured doing keg stands with loose fitting clothing, but in these tight economic times, why risk hiring a guy who some anonymous Internet commenter wrote, “Swaby was initially known online as a prime example of how virtually anyone can enter the real estate business with few, if any, credentials.”
That anonymous commenter was right. At the time I began my real estate blog, I had only earned two different licenses and had personal experience with buying and selling five different properties. Since any record of my blog is gone from the search engines, they win by default. I must be the person they say I am, because no Internet record for the defense has been entered. Not true! It was asked, answered and then deleted by Google. But that’s another story.
The interesting thing about this Google entry is the description text that shows up on the search result is fairly innocuous. Indeed, it’s a direct quote from a press release I wrote. Only if one clicks on the article do they see the criticism leveled at me.
Another of the three negative entries that shows up on the first page of Google for my name is a parody site mourning my absence. It was last updated two and a half years ago.
My reputation management nightmare is also Chloe Sevigny’s reputation management nightmare. I am but a shred in the site called Twelve Years Of Being Annoyed By Chloe Sevigny. However, its SERP description is the worst of those that appear on Google’s front page. If you actually click through to read the article it’s got a lot of quotes from me that explain my position. Ultimately it is up to the reader to draw their own conclusions for the arguments that were presented at the time. If you’ve followed the story’s conclusion at all, you will know that my stance proved to be truthful and not some ruse. Indeed Caseypedia, the other negative entry on my name, records the history afterwords and shows my assertions to be true. Negative comments about me stopped years ago.
Anonymous or not?
At the root of any Internet criticism is the source and the evidence. It is quite easy to be anonymous on the web, it is much harder not to be. Consider the founder of Tech Crunch –
Michael Arrington, whose TechCrunch blog empire attracts 6 million readers each month, has gone on a monthlong hiatus after three years of nonstop blogging. His break was prompted, he says, by burnout and by the craziness of the blogosphere (he says he’s been stalked, threatened and spat on)
I can personally assure you such offenses and much worse occur on the web. Funny enough they are always committed by anonymous individuals. The biggest criticism my few remaining detractors have about me concerns anonymity. It has been said you shouldn’t bring a knife to a gun fight. I didn’t. When confronted with anonymous attackers, I removed their masks. Some hated me for it. Aspeth wrote –
To clarify, in just March of this year, Nigel Swaby, a licensed mortgage broker who has access to financial and credit software, decided to post the identities of three frequent posters at EN. I don’t know if he abused his professional position in order to triangulate his information. But it is incredibly unsettling that someone in this position would do that, particularly considering the “grand offense” that catalyzed his actions.
It’s actually funny reviewing this statement. It confirms the ignorance of people like “Aspeth.” No financial or credit software revealed any identities…it was the WordPress commenting software. It’s also interesting to note that of the three “outed” people who were so violated by my behavior, two of them are my friends of Facebook. If you tear away the masks, you only reveal the humanity behind them. The third “outed” person has called me on several occasions and I consider her a friend. Yet this potentially negative Internet reputation still remains.
Dare to speak online?
In the article, the writer dishes up “five ways to build a digital footprint that won’t scare away future employers” Point four, “Avoid joining groups or engaging in online activities that could embarrass or restrict opportunities,” states:
Of course, during a job hunt you should consider your overtly controversial activities such as political, religious or social movements, Merritt says.
No, the above paragraph was not translated from the Russian out of a 30-year-old issue of Pravda. I found this article on CNN’s website!
That author has a good point. Why should you fear to express yourself on the Internet? My honest answer is the Internet is scary. Hide behind an alias or protect your Facebook account if you want to be controversial or political. In real life you hold back on your political and religious opinions at work. Why wouldn’t you behave with the same discretion online? I would have loved to have talked about President Obama’s Nobel Prize when it was announced, but I let that traffic go. Ultimately, that’s the only reason I would have to talk about politics…traffic. I’m not a political blogger, so I keep that away from my business.
What expectations should be made for reputation management?
1. Expect negative – Unless you’re Mary Poppins, something negative is going to turn up. You simply can’t please everybody. How you deal with the negative is more important than there being anything negative to begin with.
2. The good should outweigh the bad – If you haven’t had a hate campaign engaged against you, what shows up on the Internet should be overwhelmingly representative of who you are. For my SERP, 7 out of 10 are my creation or even positive.
3. What isn’t said, speaks volumes – Does nothing show up when you search for your name, company or brand? That’s worse than something negative, because it says you’re ignoring opportunities on the Internet.
4. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is – Like Steve Cloward’s online profile, perfection doesn’t mean anything. Perfection invites a closer look because none of us are perfect.
5. Old issues have probably been dealt with – If something negative shows up from a while ago, find out how it was resolved. If it’s not a burning issue for the critic any more, it probably shouldn’t be a burning issue for a vetter.
If you’ve got an opinion, someone on the Internet has a counter opinion. Sometimes they’ll provide a well-reasoned, cogent argument against you. Other times they’ll call you a “dooty head” in an ad hominem attack. Either way they do it, on the Internet it’s permanent. How are you going to manage your Internet reputation?