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Is Your Online Brand Good For Business?

May 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Marketing

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Marketing your business via Social Media and Online Networking has become a popular and cost effective way of growing your business. The platforms available such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook allow you to establish your niche and communicate to them directly. …

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Marketing your business via Social Media and Online Networking has become a popular and cost effective way of growing your business. The platforms available such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook allow you to establish your niche and communicate to them directly.

Watching your customers online and following their live feeds and discussions provides you with invaluable insights into their interests and concerns. Something that previously would have cost you thousands to find out is now freely available to you.

However – and this is a big warning to you! – while there are a great deal of people finding new business contracts and profitable relationships online, there are also others that are losing out BECAUSE of online networking. How? Because they haven’t taken the necessary steps to protect their own personal brand and online identity.

When looking to enter into a new business relationship it is quite standard to ‘google’ someone to find out who they are. The results can bring up all sorts of images and information that you would prefer people not to see. When you’ve finished reading this, try Googling yourself and see what comes up.

I’m willing to bet that if you’re on Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace or Bebo, your profile came up (it may have been hidden a few pages into the search results). Even if the person viewing your profile isn’t a member or isn’t signed in, they’ll probably have seen your profile picture. Anyone starting to sweat at this point?
Just taking Facebook as an example, your public profile page appears on Google and in many cases displays a selection of your friends. Hmm…even if your profile pic is perfectly presentable, what about the photos of your friends? Would they impress a potential business associate?

Ok, so if you’ve now started to think about what you can do on a practical level to undo any damage to your reputation, here are some things you can do right now. The tips are about profiles on Facebook, but the principles apply to all social networking sites.

• Change your profile name so that it doesn’t include your full name as it appears on your business webiste – abbreviate your name or use a nickname. Your real friends will know who you are.
• If you do want prospective clients or customers to find you or you’re using the site for professional networking, seriously think about having TWO profiles, one for friends and one for professional contacts.
• Check your privacy settings and put them up to the highest level. If your friends have a habit of tagging photos of you, go onto the page where the photo appears and click ‘Remove Tag’. Then go to your Privacy settings and alter the settings relating to who can view your pictures and videos. I recommend you set them at maximum privacy if you can bear to.
• Look very carefully at what comments and pictures other people have posted on your profile. If they aren’t saying the right things about you or they are likely to reflect badly on you, delete them and make sure that you check regularly to see that the amusing but crude pictures, jokes and YouTube videos people tend to share don’t keep coming back to haunt you!
• Now go to your Applications. If you’ve added applications that won’t impress people, remove them straight away. Business contacts are rarely interested to know which person from ‘Friends’ you are most like.
• Now to your Groups. Even if you’ve got your privacy settings up to the max, the instant you join a Group, you’re appearing on the online map. The Groups you join say a lot about you and in many cases mean that your full profile is visible to any other members of that Group. If you in a moment of madness joined the ‘Why I hate my boss’ group or ‘interesting places I’ve had sex at work’, it’s probably time to leave that group.
• Now to your Friends list. Do you really have 347 friends who you see on a regular basis? You’re probably giving every one of them full access to your profile. Just because you’ve decided that photos of you will only be visible to your friends, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to show them to anyone else. Especially if you’ve accepted a Friends request from a colleague or ex-colleague. If you really don’t want certain people to see what’s in your profile, you can either adjust your Privacy settings to restrict what people can see or consider removing them from your friends list.
• If you communicate with your friends via the Wall feature, remember that you are having a very public conversation. If you post something like “I was so drunk last night I can’t remember what I did” on a friend’s wall, you have absolutely NO control over who is going to see it. Use the private message boards or old-fashioned e-mail for personal communications.
• Finally, if all else fails, close your account and start again (although it is easier said than done to get your profile data removed from a social networking site).

Now, before you rush off to update your profiles to make them squeaky clean, if someone is searching for you online, you still need to come across as you. If you’re a fun-loving person who only wants to deal with people and companies who have a sense of humour and have some energy about them, that’s what they are going to be looking for on your profile. If you only include air-brushed professional studio photos as profile pics and have no applications at all on your profile, there’s a danger that you’ll come across as a bit dull or not their kind of person. So there’s a balance. Be yourself, but within reason.


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