by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Media Consultant; photo by Ben White on Unsplash…
Call it Public Frenemy Number One.
Google can be your best friend because it can help other people learn about you.
Google can also be your worst enemy because it can help other people learn about you.
What’s the difference? It depends on the source…
Getting Schooled in Social Media
I recently spoke on a social media marketing panel hosted by the Regional Independent School Communicators. A fellow panelist, Stephen Johnson, the Director of Communications at Windward School, noted that many schools won’t participate in social media because they fear what could be said about them. His response to those schools? “People are already talking about you.” These schools could sit on the sidelines and watch the conversations unfold, or they could get into the game and try to shape the discussions.
This applies to any institution or individual. You can either speak for yourself or allow others to speak for you. Google just likes to share.
Seek and Thou Shalt Find Some Good Dirt
One reason Google claimed prominence in search was because it offered personal uses — very personal. Google’s ability to search for our friends, family, exes, and even ourselves soon made it a household verb.
As we all know, Googling has gone beyond voyeurism to corporate and consumer research. Employers Google job applicants in quest of dirty laundry. Consumers seek out product and business reviews before making a commitment.
Because of this universal hunger for background info, review sites have sprouted up everywhere. Yelp enables anyone to review a business. Charity Navigator reviews nonprofit organizations. And now there’s a website that enables people to review other people anonymously. Yes, it’s a heinous concept, so I won’t name it, but it proves that even if you avoid the media to protect your privacy and reputation, you could still be dragged in.
So what can you do about it?
Open the Floodgates
An online reputation management industry has arisen because of these issues. Reputation management companies try to compel websites to remove negative mentions of their clients. This isn’t always possible, so these companies also flood the channels with positive mentions, using search-engine optimization (SEO) techniques to gain higher results in Google.
Don’t like what someone says about you? Flood the web with positive self-promotion. Nearly 90% of all clicks on Google occur on the first page, so bury that vile gossip to the second page or, better yet, the sixth or seventh. You could hire a reputation management company or, to save a few dinero, do it yourself.
Social media is a good place to start.
The Crayola Corollary
Now, as my students know, when it comes to social media — or any media — my favorite metaphor is the Crayola 64-crayon box. What kid wouldn’t want 64 colors (plus a killer built-in crayon sharpener)?
Well, actually, most kids don’t even want all the colors that come in that box, including such chromatic mutants as burnt sienna, raw umber and other crayons that look like someone left a rainbow in the toaster. Consequently, they wind up using up all the primary colors and leaving the raw umber for little siblings to chew on.
Media is just like those crayons: just because one exists doesn’t mean you have to use it. Twitter definitely has its uses, but so do periwinkle and cornflower crayons. It depends on what you want.
The key is to know which audience you want to reach, and which social media platforms they’re using, and start experimenting. I favor LinkedIn because it’s career-focused and ranks highly in Google searches. Google also likes websites that end with a .edu — yes, schools — so get that campus blog going.
One more quick tip: if you have a newsworthy announcement, learn to write and issue press releases (or hire a PR/journalism student). Numerous websites will post your press release for free or minimal cost. The goal here isn’t pitching journalists (getting one to pick up your story is challenging); it’s feeding Google and other search engines.
The best part? You just might like it.