Protecting Your Online Reputation: 4 Things You NEED to Know (to Avoid the Fate of Adria Richards)

By Houston

Caring for your online reputation — or “e-reputation” — isn’t a task reserved exclusively for presidents or celebrities. Almost everything you do online can be tracked by to you, especially the things you do in the public realm, i.e anything conducted on social media sites.

For proof, consider the case of Adria Richards (now former developer evangelist of SendGrid) who was recently terminated after she tweeted a photo (seen at right) of two unnamed developers at PyCon 2013 because she felt comments they made behind her during a conference session were inappropriate and of an offensive, sexual nature.

The problem, according to SendGrid CEO Jim Franklin, wasn’t that Richards reported conduct she believed to be inappropriate but that “her decision to tweet the comments and photographs of the people who made the comments crossed the line.”*  

An unfortunate situation, no doubt, but a situation that theoretically could’ve been avoided had Richards read the following 4 things everyone needs to know about protecting their e-reputation.

1. First and foremost, what is an e-reputation?

In short, it’s your professional presence. 48% of recruiters and HR professionals refer to personal websites when deciding whether or not to hire someone.

With search engines capable of cataloging everything from blogs posts and press releases to your social media updates, there’s really no escaping the fact that once it’s on the Internet, it’s practically there to stay. This is relevant regardless of whether or not you even use social media sites because any mention of you or your business on sites like Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn aren’t excluded from what search engines catalog.

All in all, your online reputation isn’t just what you put up online; it’s how you put it online, where you put it online, and when you do it! What’s more, it is also affected by what others say about you.

2. Why do online reputations even matter?

Even though you don’t care much about what people think of you in your real life, remember: The Internet has a far longer reach than small town gossip.

With 78% of recruiters checking search engines to find out more about potential employees and 63% of recruiters checking social media sites, there’s really no getting past the fact that personal beliefs about what people think of you doesn’t supercede what’s standard in the public realm.

All things considered, your digital life is the mirror of your professional success. Digital behavior is followed by employes, and abusing it can be bad for you. Still need convincing? 8% of companies have fired someone for abusing social media (a statistic Adria Richards is unfortunately now a part of).

3. What do potential employers watch for?

What can you expect if you end up with a bad reputation? While every case certainly differs, here are some of the more common reputations issues faced online:

  • Photos of you being used without your permission.
  • Unflattering information or comments about your character or professional work.
  • Incriminating information leaked or simply published in the process of a legal action or complaint.

4. What can you do about these issues?

Apart from never going online (which is practically impossible in this day and age) or letting anyone take pictures of you, here’s what you can do to protect and even boost your e-reputation and digital reach:

Set Your Own Reputation

  • Don’t let someone else create your rep; create your own digital strategy.
  • Get online and establish a strong and positive presence.

Stay On Top of Things

  • Google your name frequently and take note of where you appear online.
  • Also check any online aliases you may have, as these may be tracked back to you in the future.
  • Check Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites to be sure you catch everything being said about you.

Ensure There Is More Good Than Bad

  • Post your own information on a regular basis.
  • Use SEO to ensure your preferred articles are in the top results for your name.

Secure Everything

  • Make sure your own accounts are secure so no hacker will use them to post unpleasant things.
  • Don’t reveal full birth dates, addresses, or other personal information.

Educate Your Family and Friends

  • Monitor postings and tags of your image on social media sites; use  image search.
  • Ask others to remove photos or unflattering mentions of your from social media sites.

At the end of the day, you will be best served by protecting your e-reputation and boosting your digital presence by simply staying on top of what’s being said about you online and then developing a real digital strategy accordingly.

Don’t commit the same mistakes Adria Richards did. Do it for yourself, for your professional life, for your friends and family — and lastly for your sanity.

What’re your need-to-know tips for protecting your online reputation? Let us know in the comments! 


* This quote was taken from SendGrid’s blog post A Difficult Situation regarding Adria Richards’ termination

† For more information on the Adria Richards incident, check out this VentureBeat article.

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