What you can do to ensure a positive online identity.
Most personal trainers recognize the impact that social media investments can have on their business. By actively improving your online presence with blogs, Facebook pages, YouTube videos and/or Twitter updates, you can increase your opportunities to enhance client-trainer relationships, multiply promotional efforts and gain authority on a topic (Alsac 2010). But this article is not about creating a social media strategy. It is about course-correcting the one you already have—to ensure that you are being portrayed in a positive light.
Every time you transmit information over the Web, a portion of your efforts is cached; in essence, you leave behind a digital trail. For instance, the Library of Congress now has access to entire Twitter archives (Library of Congress Blog 2010). Another resource, the “Wayback Machine” (www.archive.org), stores millions of old Internet pages (in fact, you can still view IDEA’s website from 1998!). It is this combined impact of your archived content and current online behaviors that shapes your professional reputation.
Is your identity being represented online the way you intend it to? Read on to learn the ABCs of managing your online reputation and to discover the tools you need in order to keep future social media efforts within your control.
A: Assess Current Status
Using social media is about fostering relationships. And good relationships can elevate reputation. A quantitative and qualitative evaluation of your social media efforts may offer insights into the current status of your professional relationships.
A statistical analysis can be a strong indicator of overall online presence. One place to start is Grader (www.grader.com), which includes a suite of tools you can use to evaluate the power, authority and audience-reach of your Twitter, foursquare or Facebook presence. It also calculates the success of the marketing efforts of a website or blog. Klout (www.klout.com) determines the influence of a social network by measuring how well the updates in Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn drive “followers” to take action (that is, do readers add comments, retweet a post, “like” a page or mutually follow?). Facebook Insight (www.facebookinsight.com) and Google Analytics (www.google.com/analytics) also offer preliminary analyses of visitor demographics and user behavior. You can learn everything from visitor (or “fan”) demographics to how people interact with your content (number of clicks, posts, subscribers).
Regardless of the stats derived from these assessments, nothing beats a traditional Google search. It can quickly reveal the links to any image, video, news article, book, blog or discussion tied to your name, making it easy to evaluate the quality of their significance.
For most personal trainers, these free Web-based tools provide adequate feedback without the costs of paid services. (See the sidebar “Social Media IQ: More Free Assessment Tools” for others.)
B: Break Down Results
The data from your assessments holds no value until you deduce its meanings. One way to interpret the results is by categorizing according to control, impact and sentiment.
Control. Control refers to jurisdiction over content. Can you contribute, edit or delete any content that's related to you? While the owner of a blog or a Twitter feed has direct control over content, control does not always equate with authorship. So although you may not be able to delete a bad review or an unflattering photo from the Web, you can certainly respond with your comments or you can request the author (or source) to remove the undesirable material. Knowing how to control content is part of directing your identity.
Impact. Impact signifies the effect that online content may have on your audience. How likely is it that your clients will see a particular status update? Will the link for it show up on page 1 of a Google search or on page 12? Being mentioned in an IDEA article may have great impact on your professional reputation (since IDEA ranks high in search engine results). But your client’s status update about her weekly training session to her local group of Facebook friends may also have strong impact on revenue (especially if she is influential). The extent of impact can be important to how you prioritize your online energies.
Sentiment. Sentiment associates any positive or negative attitudes toward your identity or brand. Any sentiment linked to high levels of impact could be a serious detriment or benefit to your reputation. Are you tied to content that is worth a retweet, repost, comment or trackback? Or, do you wish that particular content would never arise in search engine results? Coupling impact with sentiment establishes criteria for damage control; it means knowing when to “fan the flames” or “fight the fire.”
C: Customize Your Agenda
When you know which tools effectively build your status and what links lead to critical content, you can customize your efforts so they function in your favor. The guidelines below highlight some best practices for reputation management.
Create “Vanity Alerts” to Stay on Top of Your Identity. Google Alerts (www.Google.com/alerts) is a free e-mail notification system that tracks online keywords. Stay informed every time your name or website is mentioned, and assess whether you need to do any follow-up.
Never Ignore a Negative Post, Regardless of Level of Impact. Any disparaging reviews of your products or services can be damaging. Take these opportunities to offer appreciative responses and thank reviewers for their feedback. You never know what potential clients may be reading.
Build on the Momentum of “Trending” Content. Take advantage of your popular content. Turn a Twitter update that has the most retweets into an extended blog post. Create a follow-up video to your highest-ranking YouTube videos. Watch your social media metrics closely to discover the topics, links and media that resonate with your audience; then adjust your efforts to capitalize on this trend.
Be Familiar With Various Privacy Settings. Given how Web pages, blogs, micro-blogs and social networks are becoming more intertwined, the lines between personal life and professional life may easily blur. If you want to share specific content with a select group of followers or friends, know how to customize privacy settings. Most social networking sites allow users to set their own privacy controls.
Reclaim Content That Belongs to You. If you discover that your videos, blog posts, handouts or presentations have been reposted somewhere without your permission or proper attribution, address the situation immediately. Do not allow others to get credit for your efforts, especially “sploggers” (spam bloggers) who simply repost other people's content on their blog and generate ad revenue based on your hard work.
Encourage Customer Reviews on High-Traffic Websites. When a client is enthusiastic about your fitness class or a colleague recognizes your dedication, find subtle ways to translate those sentiments onto sites like LinkedIn or IDEA FitnessConnect. Having positive reviews or commentaries on these pages can elevate your profile rank and reputation.
Reputation is often determined by people’s collective perceptions of you (Wikipedia 2010). The Web is making it easier for others to formulate initial opinions through the information they find. Reputation management demands an ongoing examination of the context and influence of your online links, resources and activities; then you must ensure that they represent your identity in the best possible light. Make sure you manage your own reputation proactively.