Who Are You Online? Who Are You Online?

By McKenna Smith on June 9, 2015

“You’re not innocent until proven guilty on the Internet.” Steve Wyer, Chief Operating Officer of Third Coast Interactive, made this statement during his presentation for our monthly First Friday event. Wyer’s lecture Who Hires a 3 Star Business? focused on the importance of one’s online identity and the impact it can have on your career.

Wyer pointed out that each of us has two identities: who we are and who we are online. Our identities in person could be completely different from how we are presented online. Listeners were encouraged to be brave and search their own names and businesses in order to determine what is being said about them.

Along with those online identities come certain images that are attached to it. Wyer stated that this is the first generation in which someone’s entire life can be seen online, from photos of ultrasounds to updates on funerals. These images are just as important, if not more so, than online reviews. Wyer shared a personal experience that occurred when he was in the process of hiring a new employee. This individual had a wonderful resume, but when her name was searched online, compromising photos emerged which changed his view on this potential employee entirely. “Images never ever ever go away.”

As time progresses, word of mouth will become less significant and online searches and reviews will dominate one’s online identity. Wyre pointed out that when someone is searching for assistance from a business or professional, one usually starts by acquiring information from a search engine. Most people have come to trust online data more than what they hear from word of mouth. Understanding this is very important because it establishes awareness of a business’ branding. When determining how to brand a business, you must establish different iterations for that business name. Successfully branding your business not only brings more attention to your company, but it helps avoid what he called “Business Brand confusion.” Business Brand confusion occurs when you are attempting to search for a company or person but several other items with similar key words pop up ahead of that business. This is very common today due to the fact that most businesses are located online. In order to avoid this, you must “grab your identity and claim it.” It is pivotal to make sure that your business is one of the first sites to pop up on a search engine because people rarely scroll to the second and third page.

So what helps you establish a credible online identity? Always start with your content. Make sure the information you’ve placed on your website is original and fresh; attaching images and tags to your website is also a useful tool. Next, always keep an eye on your ratings. When recognizing your online identity, having a five star rating may seem unimportant, but to a consumer searching your business for the first time, seeing anything below 5 stars could result in that person choosing another business over yours. After all, who would want to visit a doctor that only has 3 stars? Not me! Thirdly, it would be helpful to encourage clients/consumers to contribute to the reviews for your business online. Wyre noted that “Less than 3% of people post content and reviews online, 3% are influencers and 97% are influenced.” We need to boost those percentages in order to have more accurate ratings and reviews. Unfortunately, it is impossible to prevent bad reviews since they are opinion based, so the more people that write reviews, the more accurate your ratings become.

As you can gather, your online presence is extremely important when attempting to establish a name for not only your business, but also yourself. Steve Wyer truly brought to light the importance of your online identity and the various ways you can improve yourself.

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