Online identity management is part of many online reputation management campaigns. It is comprised of a collection of techniques used to create, promote, and protect the way a person or company is portrayed on the internet. Online identity management (OIM) often works as part of a branding or reputation management campaign to improve the quality and accuracy of the information that comprises your online identity.
An online identity is a distinct identity established by engaging in online activities. This includes:
- Creating a website
- Engaging on social media
- Posting comments or reviews
Whenever you post to a social media account, create a new about page on a blog or website, comment on a review site or forum, or even play online games, you are shaping how your online identity is managed. This is closely aligned with impression management.
By focusing on your online identity management strategy, you will be more likely to create an online identity that expresses how you’d like to be portrayed online. This includes using different personas for different online activities to mask personal identity exposure. It can also create a distinguished presence of your true persona online, which can grow a following and rise in search engine results.
This blog will cover:
- Benefits of online identity management
- Using online identity management to promote your online persona
- Protecting your online identity from search engines
- Threats to your online identity
Benefits of online identity management
When left unmonitored, our online identities can easily take a life of their own. Forces that may seem out of your control – from negative social media posts, malicious Wikipedia editors, bad reviews, negative press, or even hackers – can work to tear your online identity to shreds.
But if you take an active stance to manage your online identity, you can gain more control over the information people find online about you or your brand and improve your overall reputation in the process.
Depending on your goals, online identity management can be used to promote or protect your true identity. Here’s an overview of how this can be achieved.
Using online identity management to promote your online persona
Carefully curating your online reputation is a lot of work, but it’s worth putting in the time and effort to improve the way you or your brand is portrayed online. Since your online identity can be a deciding factor in securing a job interview, mortgage or loan applications, and even whether or not you’ll get that first date, it should be carefully managed.
How to manage your online identity
You can start to take charge of your online identity by dedicating just a couple of hours a week. Of course, if you’re facing an onslaught of negative reviews or some other crisis, you’ll have to dedicate more time. It’s always better to start working on improving your online identity while it is still in good standing.
Here are some tips to manage your online identity:
- Create positive content: Since many aspects of online identity management fall outside of your control, it is a good idea to focus on what you can control. This means creating lots of positive content, whether that is blog posts, web pages, social media posts, guest contributions on other established websites in your niche, or creating videos. If you create and promote quality content about yourself, you can cause it to rise in search results and effectively push down any negative content lurking in Google’s databases.
- Gain control over your reviews: Even if you’re experiencing negative reviews, there are still steps you can take to redeem your star rating. Start by honestly assessing your service and products. Are there any gaps or room for improvement?
If so, start by improving your overall customer experience. Then, take to the review sites to remedy individual situations, such as by removing negative reviews that violate the platform's terms of service.
Remember to respond to negative reviews with a level head and try to turn each negative experience into a positive one. Most reviewers are willing to modify their review if they feel their problem has been solved. Read some of our tips for dealing with negative reviews here.
- Monitor social media: Social media moves rapidly that just one negative tweet can quickly gain traction and reach thousands of people. This is why it’s important to invest in social media monitoring to identify threats to your online identity before they have a chance to reach more people.
- Manage Wikipedia: Managing a Wikipedia page is no small feat. If your business has one, keep a watchful eye on what people are adding to it. If Wikipedia edits are needed, consider hiring a professional Wikipedia editor before taking a DIY approach. Here is a blog article in which we dive into all of the reasons why this is a good option for most. Don't have a page? Check out these free Wikipedia alternatives.
Protecting your online identity from search engines
All of the above tips are excellent starting points for online identity management. But what if your goal is to conceal your true identity online? There are plenty of reasons why a person would want to mask their personal identity, including when they are expressing unpopular opinions on heated topics or to appeal to various groups with competing interests.
One of the most effective ways to mask your online identity is to create different personas for various online interactions. Everyone has a right to their opinion, but if yours may be a threat to your reputation, you can create an alternate persona (or a pseudonym) for it. Pseudonyms enable us to share controversial opinions without worrying about the risk they may pose to our reputation.
Threats to your online identity
Even if you are actively managing your online identity, threats can crop up and deface your reputation. Taking an active stance in managing your online identity and being aware of its most common threats can help mitigate these risks if they arise. Here are a few of the most common threats to your online reputation:
- Honey traps: A honey trap is an investigative practice in which a person will seduce their target in order to place them in a compromised position, often with photographic or video evidence that they will then post online.
- False content: False or misleading blog posts, social media posts, and reviews can all damage your online identity.
- Social media and email manipulation: Hackers can steal your passwords and other personal information to start posting offensive or unflattering comments, pictures, or videos.
- Unauthorized leaks: If the wrong information about you gets into the wrong hands, it can fuel fires with news publications, competitors, and anyone else who may benefit from harming your online identity.
- Sustained negative content campaigns: Any combination of these threats can impact your online identity. Antagonists can use surrogates, cloaking techniques, and fake names and identities to overwhelm sites like Yelp, RipOffReport, social media, and standalone websites to influence search results.
Whether you are a target for online identity manipulation or not, online identity management techniques can help you to put your best self forward online. In an age when a simple Google search is becoming the deciding factor in reaching your goals and objectives, your online identity must be portrayed in the manner that you’d like.
Online Identity Management FAQs
What is online identity management?
Online identity management is a collection of techniques used to create, promote, and protect how a person or company is portrayed online. It often works as part of a branding or reputation management campaign to improve the quality and accuracy of the information that comprises your online identity.
How do I create an online identity?
An online identity can be created and shaped by: Creating a website, blogging, engaging on social media, and posting comments or reviews.
How do I manage my online identity?
Here are some tips to manage your online identity. Create positive content like blog posts, web pages, social media posts, and guest contributions on established websites. Take an active stance on your online reviews by monitoring and responding to them. Monitor your social media mentions and engage with your followers.
What can damage my online identity?
There are plenty of threats that can crop up and deface your reputation. Here are a few of the most common threats to your online identity. Honey traps. False content. Social media and email manipulation. Unauthorized leaks. Sustained negative content campaigns.
About the author
Brianne Schaer is a Writer and Editor for Reputation X, an award-winning online reputation management services agency based in California. Brianne has more than seven years of experience creating powerful stories, how-to documentation, SEO articles, and Wikipedia content for brands and individuals. When she’s not battling AI content bots, she is cruising around town in her Karmann Ghia. You can see more of her articles here and here.