Dressing for Success in a Digital World

Posted by Bari Friedman

Online reputation management (ORM) isn’t just about burying negative press or keeping scandalous photos offline. In today’s growing age of digital media, your online presence is an integral piece of your personal or company brand—whether you like it or not. It’s more important now, than ever before, to know how you are perceived online and how you show up in search results.

While you may take a critical eye to a job application or business proposal before pressing send, have you ever given the same level of attention to your personal digital presence or that of your company?

For many individuals and businesses, online reputation can either be their biggest strength or toughest challenge. Consider the following:

  • In addition to background and reference checks, 69 percent of hiring managers refer to search engines when researching job candidates.

  • Companies can lose 22 percent of business when potential customers discover a negative article within their first ten search results.

  • Four or more negative articles appearing in your business’s Google search results? Expect to lose 70 percent of potential customers.

With that in mind, is it better to stay clear of any form of a digital self?

There’s a common misconception—particularly among those who did not grow up with the internet at their fingertips—that avoiding an online presence altogether is more beneficial than having one. However:

  • 57 percent of hiring managers are less likely to interview potential candidates if they cannot find information about the person online.

  • When it comes to researching companies and individuals, 65 percent of people view online search as the most trusted source of information.

  • 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

  • In fact, some argue that a virtual presence may carry more weight as people tend to form a first impression via internet searches prior to meeting face-to-face.

Considering the prominence of online research conducted before meeting an individual in person, it’s important to take a digital-first approach to both personal and company brand management.

Rather than straying away from the somewhat intimidating world of digital, embrace it. By doing so, you will be more equipped to manage the way you or your organization show up online and mold it to an extent.

On the contrary, if you choose to turn a blind eye to your digital presence, don’t trust that others will follow suit. In fact, you may be doing yourself or your brand a disservice by leaving the door open for someone else to form your digital presence for you—which, in some cases, can result in misleading or false information.

But how do you form a digital presence?

Even if you don’t plan to be active on social media, it is still worth the time to secure personal and branded accounts on the more prominent and popular social channels. As an organization, consider where your target audiences are most active online—for example, visual platforms like Instagram and Pinterest—and prioritize those channels.

By taking a proactive step in shaping your online presence, you are preventing others from claiming the accounts for themselves and you are fulfilling the expectations that consumers have of your organization.

Once you have secured popular and relevant online accounts, present a clear and consistent profile and message across the different sites. The consistency will make it easier for others to recognize and identify you and it will make the accounts appear more legitimate.

Furthermore, there is a common human tendency to anchor or focus too heavily on the first piece of information given to them when making decisions. As a result, it’s important that each account, regardless of the platform, offers a congruent experience in terms of the way you portray yourself or company to the public.

What comes next?

It is important to note that managing an online reputation is not a one-and-done activity; you must monitor, adapt and update.

As search engine algorithms evolve to keep up with the millions of pieces of content published online every day, you need to be proactive in managing and monitoring what shows up in the search results for your name and that of your business. Consider setting up a Google alert for yourself or your company.

In addition, be aware of opportunities to leverage new platforms that are introduced, and frequently evaluate your different social accounts and web profiles, ensuring that they share up-to-date and relevant information that entices people to interact with you or your brand online and in person.

It takes time, thought, and effort to build, maintain, and manage a solid digital presence. Fortunately, every individual has the power and resources to take the necessary steps to own his or her search results.