Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Just Go @$$@!& Yourself

Yes, dear reader, just go Google yourself.  Really, right now, put your name, maybe your occupation, your hometown, and any aliases you use into Google and see what comes up.  Hopefully it isn't a mugshot!

Last week I was preparing for a presentation about building an online persona, and did some research about how to manage your social media presence.  For a few articles to read, visit and

I pulled this list of tools from She Takes on the World's blog.  These are all items you can put to use to manage what is out there on social media sites, what's being tweeted about you or your company, etc.   
  • Blog Pulse: an automated trend discovery system for blogs. This search engine analyzes and reports on daily activity in the blogosphere.
  • Board Tracker: a message tracking and instant alerts system designed to provide relevant information quickly and efficiently while ensuring you never miss an important forum thread.
  • Google Alerts: updates sent via email of the latest relevant Google results based on your choice of query or topic.
  • Social Mention Alerts: a social media search and analysis platform that aggregates user generated content from across the universe into a single stream of information. It allows you to easily track and measure what people are saying about you, your company, a new product, or any topic across the web’s social media landscape in real-time.
  • Technorati: a search engine that indexes blogs. Find mentions of your blog or specific keywords across other blogs. Subscribe to the search results feed and get notified of new mentions.
  • Trackur: pulls keyword mentions from a variety of sources, not just Google Alerts, but its biggest use comes from the ability to save, sort, tag, share and subscribe to particular feeds.
  • Yahoo Alerts: a notification service that instantly informs you of what you consider important and relevant via instant message, email or cell phone.

In today's social media rich environment, you had better have an online presence, and make sure it is reflective of your professional self. So, doing some WineTalent research, I Googled myself.  Yes, ego-googling is a favorite pastime of mine; so I did expect to see a lot about this blog, my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and my LinkedIn profile.  Being an occassional Yelper, I thought that might come up too.  All of those things came up, as well as a bad Yelp review for WineTalentOMG!  How could this be?  I went on the Yelp review, and think it may have been a retaliatory comment from a bad review I gave a restaurant.  I was so embarassed, but instead of sitting in my bed rocking myself to sleep, I thought I should research this a bit.  The old review gave WineTalent one star, and was from about a year ago.  It took me that long to find it and fix it.  That's way too long.

So how did I fix the situation?  I contacted Yelp and let them know what I thought the situation was.  I also put a comment on the page myself--facing up to the bad review--and hoping that future clients and job hunters would still give WineTalent a chance.  Once Yelp reviewed the situation, they removed the bad review, and now my own self promotion of WineTalent is all you can see on there.  While I don't think WineTalent is the most Yelp-review intensive business, I do plan to keep track of my account, and address any reviews that come up. 

Now, self promotion may not be your cup of tea, but you had better make sure you don't have anything damaging out on the web.  Here is a great case in point:  I was recently feeling sentimental about high school and wanted to find out what my old friend was up to these days.  I knew he had moved away after finishing up his graduate degree, and put his possible whereabouts into Google.  Yes, possible stalker alert time!  But boy was I shocked when the first result that came up was from  Going to the site, I got to see my old friend's face for the first time in years.  Yep, that was him--looking a little bleary-eyed in front of the police camera.

Ok, I should stop the online sleuthing now, and chalk this up to "good to have known him, time to move on" but I was really shocked by his possible fall from grace.  So, using some additional information, I expanded my search. With this, I found out that he's a highly successful financier who has been gainfully employed for years.  His photo on his work profile looks self-assured and completely capable.  Not the beat-up guy in the police blotter shot.

I haven't touched base with my old friend--being worried about being seen as a stalker, and in case there is really more stuff I shouldn't uncover!  But if I were him, I'd be calling up immediately and asking to have my information removed.  Looking over the site, they publish this information due to the Freedom of Information Act.  This is such a great Act, allowing things like the local paper printing all of my neighbor's government salaries a few years' back. Made several of them ticked off, but it was fun seeing who made what!  FOIA of not, also has a link for getting your information removed.  Reading their FAQ, they mention that you can have your picture removed, and that there may be costs associated with this.  No dollar amount is listed, but I am pretty sure you could call them to get something worked out.  Probably for smaller violations it would be less expensive, for repeat mugshots and heinous crimes, it would be more costly.  So, how much you are willing to pay may reflect on your online persona and/or criminal alter-ego.

This is not the first time I've found, let's say "awkward", information online.   When I have suspicions about a potential job seeker or unknown client, the first place I go is Google.   I have recently Googled a job seeker whose first search information was about a past scam, and another who was involved in questionable business practices within the wine industry.  Decided against putting these people on my A Team of Talent.   

So, use those tools up there to protect your online persona.  If a recruiter is doing it, who else might be?  Now, to friend the guy in the mugshot or not?  That is the question.

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