Every feature phone now has apps to take pictures and publish it to one of the 433 (and counting) Social Network sites, it has apps to track where you are so that your friends (and anybody else) can find you. Many small cameras have wireless upload features to do the same, so the advice to “…stay off the internet if you don’t want people to know about you…” is also not valid anymore. All it takes is one friend to publish one picture and tag your name to it, and already a lot of information is available about you.
More friends, more people and more software (like Facebook’s facial recognition) makes it literally impossible to stay anonymous with so much potential information about you flooding the internet.
Fortunately, the masses of data is also your friend. Too much information makes you anonymous again, as various links to your name or references to your electronic persona muddies the water quite a bit.
The problem is thus: How do you get the right and relevant information about you out there and available to clients and potential employers and not the nonsense and mire?
The short answer is to change your strategy: Instead of trying to control what information is available, you need to use the system to control that the “right” information is available when relevant people try to find it. So if a Client wants to hire Joe Blogs the photographer, they should not be coming across the pics of the drunk stripper at his friends bachelor party. And if they want to hire a model, they need your professional profile and contact information, not your twitter feed, and if the want to book a venue, then they need the venue’s web page and not hundreds of youtube videos and flikr pictures of parties and events at that venue.
To be successful today, people need the right information at the right time.
Unfortunately, this means you will need to spend just as much time on your online persona and digital profile as you would spend on your personal appearance and brick-&-mortar business.
Here are my starter steps for getting this done:
1. Register your business domain
By registering JoeBlogsPhotography.com and building a decent website there with good information about how you work and what you do, chances are very good that a search engine will re-direct there first, before linking to other websites referring to Joe Blogs Photography. Remember to pertinently mention in your pages where in the world you are (city is good, but Country is a must!)
2. Register your personal domain
Hold on to your name. There are hundreds of people named “Joe Blogs” out there. Be the first to hold onto the domain because just like with your business, many search engines will look there first if queried. You might just re-direct this page to go to your “about us” page on your website, but a much better strategy would be to build a small separate website that talks only about you and what you do. this website should link back to your business pages and profiles.
3. Register your well known user identities
If you are know on 5 modeling forums as “Blue Fairy” and that is how people have been referring to you electronically, it would be wise to also register this domain or anything as close to that as possible. People might be looking for specific information on a topic, find your discussions about it, and then need to find you. The easiest is if you can somehow link your profiles to your “Professional” pages (business or personal profile websites) but second best: if people search for your username in Google, the will find more references to it, and generally at the top of the page: your Username/Nickname.
The next major steps is to control the social sites
4. Register your real name on the Social Networks
Now you need to control what is viewed on the Social Networks. Register your real name, Business name and major usernames on the sites which is currently popular AS WELL as the sites that is trending up (Right now, facebook and twitter is a must) Registering more is better than less, and sometimes you can have a combined solution like Facebook profiles, and Facebook Pages. DO NOT use these for just random ramblings. More people will follow you if you talk sense, and make effort. This, in turn, will result in better Search Engine listings for the pages you control and have control over.
The profile information you create here should also contain all the relevant info to get hold of you, with links to your websites and profiles. Do not just copy and paste the same profile information from one location to the next. Do some effort to create a new profile everywhere that is more suited to the website you are creating a profile on.
Think about it like magazines: A person buying the Wall Street Journal do not expect or want articles from People Magazine.
5. Make thoughtful comments When you read articles or blogs, do the effort to sign your name/business name/nic and a link to the relevant website and make a relevant comment that ads to the conversation. The author of the article or blog will most likely approve and publish the comment if it is relevant and insightful, and this will again result in Search engines indexing your name and the links to your websites.
Why is this important? If the search engine finds your website link on another website which already has a fair to good rating, the Search engines will assume that the website owners also believe YOUR website has value. This in turn pushes the pages up in search engine results so that the first page of Google (for instance) shows your relevant business and personal pages that you want the world to see.
The comments that other make about you, random postings on forums, etc, will all be relegated to later pages in the search results, most probably never to be seen because the people that needed to get hold of you, or see what you or your business is capable of, has allready found you and made contact.
From there, your sparkling personality and abilities would need to do the rest, and deliver!
NOTE: Also consider adding a google alert on your name, business or professional name, and nicknames. That way you will get email notifications when google comes across those on the internet. If any of the instances might place you in a less than complimentary light, you might at least be able to do some damage control by posting on the site in question, or getting content removed.