Whether you're looking for a job, seeking a promotion at work, running for political office, joining a civic group, owning a business or just being a neighbor, people are Googling your name.
There's no telling what they'll find.
A recent blog post from Seth Godin's blog brought to mind a couple of important points about life online today. First, anyone can Google your name and find out just about anything. Second, social media sites like Facebook, mySpace and others are blurring the line between personal profiles and professional profiles. If you think you can keep your personal and professional lives separate, think again.
There are some valuable lessons for you, especially if you're seeking a job or own a business. People have access to all kinds of information about you, and privacy is dead, even if you're not on Facebook or mySpace. Why? Because others can post photos of you on mySpace and Facebook, and that content can be searched.
If you want to realize the potential hazards of social media sites like Facebook, you need to look no further than the video below -- "Facebook in Reality." This parody -- especially the last minute or so, demonstrates how others can damage your reputation.
Your online reputation should be monitored. Not only can social media sites cause a problem, but many sites (like Google Local, Citysearch and others) allow people to publish reviews for businesses. Many folks also write about exceptionally good and bad interactions with companies on their blogs. All of this content is indexed by search engines, and is ready to be shown anytime someone Googles your name or business name.
To monitor your online reputation, Google your name and/or your business name once per week. Set up a Google Alert. Be proactive.
Don't get me wrong -- I love social media sites, and they can be great for promoting your business. If anything, this teaches us that we should all lead more honest lives. You simply can't lead different professional and personal lives. If you do, people will see things about you that you don't want them to see.