This thought provoking article, 4 Ways Social Media Can Ruin YOUR Reputation, brings to mind the saying of my grandmother’s: ” You are known by the company you keep.” While some may dispense with this as old-fashioned advice in the new socially-networked world. I find it to be true now more than ever.

Privacy not invaded, but given away
I’ve done many presentations to parents about social networking and what teens are doing online. Many are frightfully uninformed. The largest danger is the thinking that social profiles are private, when they are just the opposite. Public profiles, for teens and young adults, can be a vast repository of personal information
social media privacy

My favorite story is about a guest speaker that taught a class of high school students about online privacy. When the students entered the room, they were shocked to find papers taped all over the walls of the room, all of which contained their conversations, profiles, pictures, and things that they assumed were private. All of which were found by the speaker online with only a few pieces of information. None of the students realized how public, and how findable, everything they did online really was.

Everyone is a Brand
Related to this is the fact that everyone is becoming a brand. Every person is your brand, and you will have to manage your online reputation just as any company would. Earlier this year, the John Edwards campaign came under fire for hiring two bloggers that made inflammatory remarks in their blogs (NYTimes). Some of those remarks were even contradictory to the views of the Edwards’ campaign. What may have been acceptable on a personal level was not acceptable for the campaign. The two bloggers ultimately kept their new positions, but not without Edwards distancing himself from them and their views, all of which created a large distraction for the campaign.

I believe that more and more people will have their online “cybertrail” taken into account as employers, prospects, recruiters, and possibly even clients start to realize the wealth of information about people at their fingertips. At one time, private investigators were the primary means of finding out this much information about people. Now, it seems, people are very willing to let everyone know their latest escapades.

Much more than tracking someone’s profile online, I realized that most people put more information on their social profiles than employers are legally allowed to ask in an interview. This isn’t just for kids, it’s for anyone that may complain about a boss, a co-worker, or have any problems at work. It’s about your personal life available online for anyone to find and judge. Once it is posted online, it is there for anyone to see. If an employer wants to find out more about a prospective employee, they don’t have far to go.

Managing a company’s reputation takes work; negativity is usually the result of bad products, practices, mistakes, or vocal critics. However, personal reputation may take an even bigger brush to cover, especially with the broad range of social media outlets. I have a funny feeling that personal reputation management will be a lucrative business in the near future.

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