Who Is In Control Of Your Online Identity?
Boring headline, important topic and one I think about for personal and professional reasons.
Every day people wind up here through a variety of Internet searches and while I am always interested in what keywords drive people here the two that are always at the top are these Joshua Wilner and Josh Wilner.
That is because I am not the only guy out there with my name, there are a few more. Some years ago I would have had little concern about this because what those other guys did would probably not have affected me.
But times change.
My Identity and The Internet
Since I am not independently wealthy and work is not an option I try to make a point to take control of my online identity. When people run a search for “Joshua Wilner” I want me to come up and not because of ego.
It is because people do things and some of those things are not the kind that you want to be associated with. As far as I know the men who share my name are good people but what would happen if one of them wasn’t.
What would happen if they were indicted and convicted of some horrific crime? What would happen if they became the next Madoff or Night Stalker?
It is possible that people could mistake me for them. It is possible that prospective employers and colleagues could mistake me for them and that could have negative consequences that I would prefer not to deal with.
The Difference Between Paranoia and “Insurance”
Some of you might think of this as being paranoid but I prefer to be think of this as being similar to “insurance.”
What it means is that I don’t spend my days wondering and worrying about what could happen but I do try and take basic steps to protect myself.
This blog has been an excellent tool for generating business and for helping me continue to work on my writing skills. It has been a very useful tool for meeting people and for helping to continue to educate myself about things that are of interest personally and professionally.
So there are multiple benefits that come from writing here, interacting with others and building links that make it more likely that people will find me online.
This is part of how I try to manage my online identity and the perception people have of me.
Manage Versus Control
In a professional capacity I often hear people talk about the need to control the message and conversation that is taking place about their company/brand but I am not convinced that we can do it, if we ever could.
There are too many channels of communication, too many ways/places for people to talk so I am an advocate of trying to manage those conversations.
Create a hub for conversation and try to funnel/direct people to it. Give them a place to interact with you and you create an environment in which you can try and manage what goes on.
It is why I encourage brands to start the engagement long before their social media channels light up with angry comments, tweets and status updates.
That provides you with the opportunity to benefit from the environment you created. People are more willing to continue to engage in rational discussions about what happened and how you intend to deal with it.
If you did a good job at engaging and building community it is the time when your apology for what went wrong is likely to be most effective, but that is a topic that is big enough for its own post(s).
What About You?
Do you ever think or worry about your online identity? Is this is a discussion you have at work or with your family?
Would love to hear your thoughts.