It’s Time to Take Personal Online Reputation Management Seriously

Image above is of me receiving the Volunteer of the Month for September 2013 for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. I was part of a team that received this wonderful and humbling award thanks to our efforts for the Food Bank 24-Hour Telethon.


No joke.

Just a couple of years ago I wrote about the subject of who you are online in a not so in your face way. Clearly, I wasn’t as matter of fact enough as I probably should’ve been because two years later I’m seeing some pretty frightening stuff. Not everyone is paying attention to their own reputation online…or if they are, they suck at it.

Case in point – do a search for “fired because of Facebook” and look what you’ll find –

Fired Over Facebook Screenshot Copyright Lisa Sullivan

Over 184 MILLION results captured!

Is that NOT staggering?? I thought I heard a collective “WOAH” coming from the audience.

Then, last week I saw this article about a Boston bartender and what happened when his Tweet got taken out of context. The gist is, he’s admittedly a sarcastic guy and just like everyone else on the planet (OK, that might be exaggerating) he was Tweeting during the Super Bowl. When the Coca-Cola ad came on he Tweeted an irresponsible statement. He says he was joking and most likely he was, but the context of his Tweet was put in a bucket with a bunch of other “related” Tweets (and I use that term loosely because he has since asked for his to be removed) and published for all to see on the very popular site Buzzfeed, which aggregates viral content and creates a story of it. And so now, his Tweet was roped into everyone else’s and his reputation was in question.

First of all…and I truly believe I am not the only one to have said this but…perhaps he should’ve thought carefully about his content BEFORE clicking “Tweet” to post it. There are those that would argue, “But it’s a free country. He can say what he wants” or “oh, come on! That’s ridiculous. He was just kidding.” Yes and yes. But here’s the thing (and he picked it up himself when he wrote his letter to Buzzfeed asking for the removal of his content)…

Are you ready for this?

Wait for it.

OK….here’s the BIGGEST and MOST IMPORTANT THING you need to understand –


What he posted on the internet was INDEXED.

I’ll let you let that thought sink in for a second.

And if you think that by changing your screen name or Twitter handle you are “anonymously” posting (at least on the most popular platforms), guess what – you’re not. Not only is your content online indexed, it’s also easily traceable by ANYONE who feels they need to perform a background check on you for whatever reason, especially a new job or a promotion for the one you currently have OR perhaps a potential new client would like to check you out before picking up the phone to make that first call.


How much clearer can I say this?

Watch yourself online, People.

THINK before you post.

Think about what your mother would say if you posted what you planned to post or…Jesus or Budha or whomever you worship.

As soon as you put anything online, it gives YOU a history. Scratch that. A history of YOU. It gives others context about you. That should be a pretty simple explanation. Apparently, it’s not.

And if I’m being real here, it shouldn’t matter if it’s indexed or not. That old adage, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” still applies. One wrong Tweet, Instagram post, Facebook comment, etc. and a person will determine whether they want to friend you, fan your business, connect with you (on LinkedIn), circle you (on Google+), or HIRE you.

Now….the other thing is Buzzfeed isn’t totally at fault either, neither is any news organization (or anyone) that aggregates Tweets around a conversation for that matter. While I understand the need for getting the story out, perhaps whomever is writing the story should probably check their sources too.

That said, that STILL doesn’t EXCUSE YOU from your own idiocy either. You’re an adult. You KNOW that what you put online out there for the world to see, the world will see it…and probably share it in some shape or form AND make up their minds about who you are without even talking to you or getting to know you themselves. Now, if you don’t care about that, then by all means, go on wit your bad self and make an ass out of yourself. Who’s stopping you? Just don’t expect a raise, that new job you wanted or that potential client to ask for your products or services.

There. Am I clearer now? Cuz really, it’s exhausting having to remind you about this subject as often as I do.

Online reputation is no joke. Take care of yours…or live with the consequences. It’s your choice.

(A Note About Comments – I welcome them, but only if you can be rational and objective. Comments don’t get posted until I approve them. If you have an issue with that, then feel free to head on over to and start your own blog. Thank you!)


4 Responses to “It’s Time to Take Personal Online Reputation Management Seriously”
  1. CharityJen says:

    Fantastic article, Lisa… and one I will be sharing with my nephew. His friend hacked into his facebook account and posted some pretty inappropriate stuff. He didn’t seem to be too concerned and I tried to convey the urgency of cleaning things up. Your article hit the nail on the head! Thank you!!

    • Oh good. A perfect example for the kids today. They have GOT to watch their online behavior or their reputation could easily be ruined. I’m glad you found the article to be helpful! Share away!!

  2. Dena says:

    Love this article. So true, and very sad that we need constant reminding. Thanks for the reminder Lisa…..again!

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