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How often do you Google your own name? And how often do you Google the names of potential employees before opting to hire them? In these data-driven times, it is important to recognise that personal information is becoming much more accessible and can impact you both postively and negatively.

In his new book, iCrossing's Antony Mayfield addresses how to manage personal online reputation effectively. We recently caught up with Antony at the launch of Me and My Web Shadow to find out more.  

What is this book about and how is it structured?

It does what it says on the cover, or in the sub-title, at least: tells you how to manage your online personal reputation. Essentially, the book is about explaining to anyone what happens when someone puts their name into Google or Facebook, and what you can do to establish and manage your personal online presence.  

It is structured as a handbook that you can dip in and out of as needed. There are three sections: 

  • How the web works: some context and a brief history 
  • How to approach managing online reputation: the theory bit
  • Practical advice: developing a plan, the basics of the main social platforms and some useful online tools. 

What inspired you to write this book?

I’m an unashamed internet optimist. I think that the more people that are comfortable with social web tools the more benefits there will be for society, commerce and culture. It struck me that the best way to encourage people to try the tools was to speak to an immediate need, rather than preaching a vision of a digital future. Everyone understands the need to look after their personal reputation, and it seemed like the best place to start...

Is this aimed more at individuals or at businesses?

The book is for individuals. Interestingly, businesses are showing an interest because they want their people to gain digital literacies that will help them to be more effective. Recently, one executive at an international firm talked to me about his senior team taking evening classes in using the social web. He felt that understanding this personally was just something they all needed to be able to do in order to understand it properly. 

What can businesses learn from this book?

The principles for individuals looking to manage their personal reputation apply equally to businesses. At iCrossing, we talk about understanding your networks, being useful in order to earn attention and ensuring that you are present where it counts. Ideas like being the best/first source of information about yourself and listening carefully to what is said about you are as true for businesses as they are for each one of us.   

How much of the content is based on your experiences working with iCrossing?

I’ve learnt a huge amount working at iCrossing over the past four years. The web’s been a personal and professional obsession for me for all of that time. What I was learning from my personal blogging and Twitter use, for instance, has informed my iCrossing work. Meanwhile, the things I was learning from the incredibly bright people in our SEO, analytics, editorial and social media research teams helped me to develop my understanding of the web. The book owes a debt to my colleagues in the UK, US and Germany. 

How often do you Google 'Antony Mayfield'?

I’m a bit erratic, but every couple of months or so I will take a look. Google Alerts keep me posted on anything new that comes online. 

As individuals, are there are any basic things we should be doing to improve our online footprint?

Developing a system, or personal strategy is the first thing to think about. Taking stock every now and again of what is out there and how you are managing your personal presence is a really good idea. 

On a day-to-day basis the rule to live by is not wasting anything you do that might help your online presence by being useful to your network. For instance, what we read and find interesting we should share on Delicious and Twitter. When we write interesting notes or a presentation, we should share them on services like SlideShare or Scribd then link to them from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as appropriate. 

Is there any value in spending time on this if you have a common name like John Smith?

The golden rule is to try and see your online presence as others would. If someone is looking to do business with you or hire you how would they go about looking for you. Most people have enough skill with Google to start adding keywords like companies you have worked for, places you have lived etc. to narrow down a search. 

Is it true that celebrities employ agencies to manage their online footprint and minimise the impact of damaging information?

Along with the personal trainer, bodyguard and stylist, digital specialists are part of the entourage for many celebs these days. Often this is about security first - locking down passwords and voicemail PINs - but they will increasingly need to look at the social network and online presence of individuals too, trying to spot damaging information or security holes before the tabloid journalists do. 

In terms of companies managing their reputation online, does strategy for social media need to come before tactics?

Not necessarily, strange as that may sound. Many companies are learning by doing and building or refining a strategy as they go along. The first strategy a company needs is to understand the social web and what it means to their stakeholders... 

Finally, how do you feel about your Dad's comment on Amazon? Is it true he blogged before you did?

I was really pleased he liked the book. Believe me, he would have said if he didn’t. It is true he was blogging before me - and played a big role in my deciding to try it for myself. 

Aliya Zaidi

Published 24 May, 2010 by Aliya Zaidi

Aliya Zaidi is Research Manager at Econsultancy. Follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn or Google+.

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