Let’s face it, the ability to manage and control our personal and professional identities has taken a big hit thanks to web services like Google, MySpace, Facebook, social bookmarking and now challenges like “25 Random Things About Me” that’s been making the rounds.
Depending on how you play it out it’s either the underside or simply an unintended consequence of the digital revolution, but these are forces to reckon with rather than ignoring. As Julia Angwin wrote in “It’s a New Me (as seen on Google)” in Wall Street Journal Online,
One of the paradoxes of the digital age is that the boundless freedoms of the Internet also constrain our identity. Before the ubiquity of search engines you could go on a date or a job interview and construct a narrative about your life that fit the situation. No one in your book group had to know that you were a punk-rocker in high school. But it’s much harder to package yourself in the Google era. Online, your digital identity often comes down to the top 10 links on your SERP, or search-engine results page. (continues here…)
Concerning, yes, but as I tell my clients who are worried about their online identities, get used to it. And do something about it, after all it’s not rocket science. Only “friend” people you know, make sure your password is difficult to guess, and don’t join every new social network that comes your way – the more exposed you are the more prone you are to what’s now known as Facebook fraud.
Of course playing defense is only half of the game. You need to put your brand out there the way you want to be perceived. If you’re not sure how to do that, read Tom Peter’s seminal Brand You article for Fast Company (and the many books and articles that has spawned).
Once you know where you’re going, whether personally or professionally, start a blog or build a page on a social networking site like Facebook or LinkedIn and put it out there. And by all means talk up your dream because if you don’t, who will? While you’re at it pay attention to what the search results say about you and react appropriately when the wrong message appears. Your next sale or job or relationship may depend on it.
(Props to Ally Hemming of The Hired Guns for bringing Julie Angwin’s article to my attention).