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You Are What You Post:

Controlling Your Cyberspace Avatar


In the real world we are coached to put our best face forward. To dress and talk as we wish the world to perceive us. Fortunately, communications happen in real time with subtle clues that give feedback, and modifications can sometimes be made on the spot (or at least apologies for a foot in the mouth comment!) Not so online. What you write, the words you chose and what you chose to say, are frozen in time. You are what you write and that digital you, that “avatar” in cyberspace, can come back to haunt you.


We blog, reply to blog postings, set up “profiles” in Linkedin, Facebook, post questions or replies on forums/bulletin boards, write letters to editors, send out press releases, and create “bios” on our websites….what picture do all of these cyberspace words paint?


Some of these words you carefully craft with an image in mind. Others are words you posted in the heat of “passion” as replies to what someone else said. And then there are the insidious words, words you wrote somewhere, anywhere else, that find their way into cyberspace without your permission. Lastly, there are words others have written about you that aren’t true.


So how do you get control of your cyberspace image? Here are 8 rules for controlling your “Avatar”:


Rule #1: You can only control what you post on your websites and profiles. Everything else can be edited, quoted out of context or become impossible to remove.


Rule # 2: Knowledge empowers. Find out what cyberspace is saying about you. Google yourself. Do a search on your name (and variations of it i.e. with a middle initial), a search on your company name (Or employer along with your name).


Rule # 3: Go beyond Google results. Once you’ve got the search list, click on all the links, even what looks like something you had posted. Sometimes your words might be as you wrote them but were picked up by a website you really don’t want to be associated with.


Rule # 4: Accept that some of the hits will puzzle you. I had this happen when my name appeared on a link to a porn site. Yes, a porn site! I clicked through and read the text (ugh), did a page search for my name (didn’t come up), checked other pages (disgusting), and even looked at the html source. My name was nowhere! This has happened numerous times (only once porn) so I am clueless as to where the Google bots found it. But at least I know it would show up in the search list and therefore, I would be able to defend myself if anyone brought this up. Which leads to:


Rule # 5: Be ready to defend yourself. Try to get your words removed if possible. Sometimes, a webmaster will comply. Most times not. (An article I wrote years ago is on a website page that lists me in the credits as the president of a company where I worked but where I never was president. My request to correct that error received no acknowledgement or action.). If you can’t edit or delete the information, then be prepared to defend it. This is especially true of negative stories in the press, which sometimes can be rebutted if proven inaccurate but the original piece will rarely be removed. As I said in rule # 2: Knowledge empowers. You now know it exists. If it is slanderous, could jeopardize a client or employer relationship, get tough. Threaten a law suite.


Rule # 6: Don’t trust websites that say they can unearth information about you…for a price. The major search engines will come up with the 99% that represents your cyberspace existence. The others either will give you information from the printed world i.e. motor vehicle or police records, which is not your goal here. Or they are just scamming you into giving them money. One of those sites told me that for $5 I could get information on a Leona Seufert in Charleston SC. Did a Google on that and came up with nothing. Another site dangled information about me (all inaccurate) hoping I’d want to pay to find out more.


Rule #7: Keep tabs on your cyberspace self. Establish Google Alerts for your name and any of the search terms you would use. As Google finds new information

with those terms posted on the Web, you will receive an e-mail or RSS feed. Also do a Google search regularly.


Rule #8: Be aware. Now that you know what is out there and how it can be mangled, be conscious of every word you post online.


Lastly, don’t let all of this make you paranoid. Worrying about what is happening to you in cyberspace will not move your business or life forward. Keep these 8 “rules” in mind but focus on the positive aspects of cyberspace, how it can enhance your real life instead of hurting it!

© 2010 Leona M Seufert 


Need assistance in using the right words to craft your cyberspace image? Contact Beyond Words Communications (908-241-5874 Beyond-Words@att.net) to help you create an exciting “avatar” that will propel your brand forward and benefit your bottom line.