BrandYourself -- whose co-founder shares the name of a drug dealer, which proved
problematic when he started seeking college internships -- developed a free,
do-it-yourself tool kit as an alternative to expensive, full-service options.
PD Media Lab, a digital marketing agency owned by The Press Democrat, sells a digital reputation management service as part of its portfolio of products for local businesses. The firm creates and monitors social media sites for its clients and advises them on how to counter negative information.
"Reputation management is a growing concern for small and mid-sized businesses that can get killed by a bad Yelp review or a fraudulent message somewhere," said Greg Retsinas, director of the PD Media Lab.
Experts say many Internet users need look no farther than their own keyboards to spiff up their online profiles. By using multiple media tools and the fundamentals of search engine optimization, any individual can put positive material at the top of search results generated under an individual's name.
"It's kind of killing it with kindness and overwhelming it with positivity," said Rego, a new media trainer and author of a new book, "Take Control of Your Online Reputation."
The alternative, she said, is to let your past and your critics define you online.
"You have to actually do something," Rego said. "If you're not, then anybody can say whatever they want and manage your reputation for you."
You don't need to know how to code web pages to understand that Google -- the nation's dominant search engine, with a reported 100 billion monthly searches -- favors whatever's new, fresh and buzzworthy. Or that most people searching the web never move past the first page of results.
Filling out profiles on established media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and the like is one way to move your content into upper-ranking tiers.
Elevate the material you want people to see by regularly updating blogs and social media sites with usable, interesting information that promotes sharing and linking between your accounts, said Lori Randall Stradtman, author of "Online Reputation Management for Dummmies."
Most consultants also advise their clients to acquire domain names with their names in them as another means of controlling how they're viewed online -- a step so basic they say parents should even obtain domain names for their kids as soon as they're born. Zammuto has them for his kids, with plans to turn them over after college, and has gone so far as to reserve Facebook accounts for them, as well.
There's something at stake for virtually everyone -- whether it's job prospects, college admissions, a competitive market edge, the promise of romance or a professional reputation.
"It touches everyone in one way or another," Stradtman said.
And the impact will only become more profound for the generations whose lives play out entirely during the cyber age. In the future, amplified computing power will permit the mining of information from ever wider, deeper wells of data.
Zammuto said he knows his own offspring are sick of hearing his lectures about exercising discretion in the digital world.
"I am willing to guarantee that they will never get into college, they will never get a job, they will never get a date, they will never get married without the other person checking them out online," he said.
"I'm 43. I could do dumb things without having them follow me around for the rest of my life," Zammuto said. "These kids don't have that."
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