If you conduct business online, or if you have an online presence for a product, service, talent, or skill, you need to manage how the millions upon millions of online users perceive you. It takes only a few bad comments, posts, or blogs to ruin the reputation you have spent years building. Fortunately, there are tools out there to help you manage that reputation. Those tools aren't exactly obvious -- and you have use caution when selecting them (to make sure you're not about to get caught up in a scam). But when you find a reliable tool, it's wise to make use of it.
Here are five tools you can use to help you ensure that your online brand and reputation are where you want them. Naturally, these tools require some work to really make the most of what they offer. And most of them aren't just one-time usage tools -- you actually have to spend time with them to really help massage your reputation.
Note: This list is also available as a photo gallery.
1: Google's Me on the WebGoogle has a nice tool that allows you to easily monitor search results for your name. Me on the Web (Figure A) is included in the Google Dashboard. It allows you set up search monitors for your name/brand, assists you in the removal of unwanted content, and can help you manage your online identity. I have found the search monitors to be incredibly helpful as they alert you when others (individuals, companies, etc.) mention your name or your brand.
Me on the Web
2: Reputation.comReputation.com (Figure B) is a service that allows you to see how you look online. The service is free and it doesn't use your information for any untoward activities. All you do is create a free account. Then you can monitor your online "buzz," search for and remove any negative information/mentions about you, and find out how you can control what people see when they search for you.
3: NaymzNaymz (Figure C) is not a free service (although you can sign up for a 30-day free trial) and is a bit different from the other tools. Naymz is a network that includes tools to help you manage your reputation. With these tools (and with interaction within the network) you earn free products and services (as your reputation grows). Thanks to the Naymz network, you can get a quick assessment of what your peers think of you as well as connect to Facebook and Twitter.
4: Whos TalkinWhos Talkin (Figure D) is a social media search tool that shows you what members of social sites are saying about your name or brand. Using the tool is as simple as entering your name (or brand), clicking search, and waiting for the results. Whos Talkin doesn't help you manage those results, but it will give you a lightning-fast look at what the Web is saying about your name or brand. What is done with those results is up to you. Why use this over a simple Google search? Whos Talkin focuses only on social media, so your results aren't buried inside other results.
5: YasniYasni (Figure E) is a nice free tool that lets you search for people and services. The results of those searches will tell you how that person/service is seen from an online point of view. The only downfall of Yasni is that it will include any results that match your criteria. If I search for my own name, I find results from Louisville (me), Kentucky (me), and Michigan (not me). You are also given popular search terms that are associated with the name/service. When I search for my name, I get associated terms like zombie (correct), Linux (correct), Android (correct), Ubuntu (correct), and Windows (ummmm).... Although you won't find tools to help you correct any negative comments/posts/results, you can at least discover all the key terms that are associated with you and your brand.
Your reputation is everything in this constantly shrinking online-centric world. If you don't monitor and manage your online name and brand, you run the risk of seeing your reputation plummet and your value disintegrate. Give each of these tools a test-drive and see if you can come up with a one-two combination to help you keep your reputation in check.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.