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Everybody indeed wants a shortcut. I just wrote something about this in relation to building online social media communities over on the Huffington Post and so I thought I would extend the idea to online reputation management (ORM) as it’s practiced both in your own life (as the resulting splatter painting of your life online, over time, unintentionally). Like Jackson Pollock, you’re creating a genius work of Abstract Expressionistic spatter painting; unlike Pollock, you’re probably not being remotely as artful and intentional as he was — and this is a problem. The art that is reflected online — and in a rich reduction of everything you’ve every done and ever said distilled into only ten — maybe twenty — results.

Of course, not just ten or twenty but more like, for me, “about 50,300,000 results (0.32 seconds);” however, as I tell people every day, 89% of folks never see the gorgeous tapestry known as “chris abraham” in completion. Like standing too close to a massive pointillism masterpiece, all most people see is a bunch of dots. While it takes a few steps back to get the message of the entire work that is you, you had better make sure that the 10-20 dots that anyone sees (99% of folks never get past the second page of search, twenty results) is a fractal of the larger you: that what they see when they see but only those ten or twenty results is an accurate and exquisite culmination of who you are, what you do, and what you’ve accomplished, and who you most want to become.

What you have probably been doing until now is ignoring the direct relationship between your actions online and the Google’s reaction to them. What’s even more probable is that Google’s reacting to your painful lack of online action. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an active or passive participant online or whether you’re participating at all (and the resulting painting wasn’t even painted by you but by one or more others, many of whom aren’t too concerned about flattering you — in fact, the folks who are most likely to put time and energy into rendering you and your life are more akin to political cartoonists, caricaturists, and satirists than Rothko, Pollock, Johns, or de Kooning.

So, how does one respond to this? How does one turn the chaos of the splatter of water coming off a shaking dog into something that you can consider a work of modern digital art? It’s all about applying lots and lots of paint. It’s about layering. It’s about putting down the paint intentionally and over time so that you, and not Google, are the artist of your online reputation. “Chris, what’s up with all of these analogies? What the hell does this all mean?” Well, I will tell you.

In order to control your online reputation — to make sure it reflects you in your best and most accurate light — you need to work slowly, intentionally, consistently, and with purpose by feeding little bits of discrete content about yourself constantly, over time, and across a number of disparate platforms. What this means is that the more content you can contribute online, both in the form of original content as well as shares, comments, retweets, Likes, +1s, following, adding to circles, and allowing frictionless sharing of your own content, the more likely your content will associated with being the best, most relevant, and most popular content available: that’s it. That’s all Google wants: to deliver as close to exactly what someone searching is looking for as immediately as possible.

Notice I didn’t not include “true” or “honest” — though I wish I could. I cannot because Google is only 20% research librarian any more. Closer to 60% of Google is now gossip columnist: Google will almost always deliver the most popular content, be it salacious, titillating, astounding, insulting, profane (if your Safe Search setting is set to off), or hilarious — none of which needs to be even remotely true. Don’t mistake Google’s “don’t be evil” slogan for “always be good.” Google only has a finite number of nanoseconds in the universe and always wants to serve content immediately — so Google tends to set up its search not unlike your supermarket sets up its merchandise: candy and tabloids up front, right up front at the checkout counter! That’s why I said that unless you take control of your own reputation online, your beautiful soul, amazing insights, and unique experiences are more than likely to end up usurped by a Mars King Size Milky Way and a copy of Weekly World News. Sad but too true.

So, be sure to take your entire life, both professional and personal, and remove all the awkward stages from this content photo album and start digitizing it and start developing context, history and complexity online. This is what Facebook calls your social graph. Everyone cares about your social graph. And it’s meant to be both interconnected and historical. Facebook compels you explicitly to share your life all the way back to your birth but Google isn’t nearly as bold but it wants the same thing, though it does it through implicit clues. Unfortunately, it’s hard to identify an elephant by touch, as we all know (“Is it a snake? Is it a tree? I just don’t know!”). So, you need to meet Google not even half-way — you need to spoon feed Google and you need to also turn that visual elephant that is you that Google cannot identify into simple text and textual content: ELEPHANT ==> hyperlink to information about you, an elephant. See what I mean?

And since Google is once bitten, twice shy over all of the times Google’s been hurt before by all those one-night stands with spammers, astroturfers, phishers, and the like, Google is looking more and more for a nice guy, a girl next door. Someone reliable who folks know and can vouch for. The sort of content that’s more likely to have been there with a probability of being in for the long term.

Think of it this way — yet another analogy: you know how your best friends know way more about you than you have ever explicitly told them? Well, it’s because your friends know you very well, can make assumptions, and also are in communication with each other as well. They know you “better than you know yourself,” generally speaking, unless, of course, you’re secretive. And, if you are that excessively private person, your friends will not only not know you very well but might be a little suspicious of you. They say that folks really learn to love and trust you when they finally get to see your flaws and maybe get a little dirt on you? Well, Google — and the entire online world — is very interested in getting to see and know you from all 365-degrees, pimples and all.

So, feel free to sing your song onto the Internet — the sort of playful story-telling that you might share at a dinner party (not the sort of drunken filterless ramblings you should have gotten over in college) — and include things about you as a person, as a brand, as an expert, and also as a member of the community.

Don’t worry: your online reputation is a culmination of lots of bits and pieces. The more pieces there are to choose from, the less likely any particular piece will make much of a difference. The greater the number of data points that represent you the better. But don’t sweat it!

If you’re as charming as you are at those dinner parties, then you’ll surely end up doing a brilliant job of being reflected beautifully online and on search.

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(Disclosure: I am a former employee of Reputation.com and they continue to sponsor my work)

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Chris Abraham

About Chris Abraham

A pioneer in online social networks and publishing, with a natural facility for anticipating the next big thing, Chris is an Internet analyst, web strategy consultant and advisor to the industries' leading firms. He specializes in Web 2.0 technologies, including content syndication; organize search engine optimization (SEO), online reputation management (ORM), content marketing, online collaboration, blogging, and consumer generated media.

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