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Make Your Online Image Shine with Wild West 2.0

wild-west-2.0-coverDon’t fear the online critics. Embrace them with positivity, truth, and know-how. Look at Internet and social network interactions as an opportunity for your real estate business to shine – even if it’s faced with adversity. Let Wild West 2.0: How to Protect and Restore Your Reputation on the Untamed Social Frontier (Amacom, June 2010) be your guide. Authored by Michael Fertik, and online reputation management expert, and David Thompson, a lawyer who specializes in Internet technology, the book lays out methods for being proactive online, identifying the original source of negative content, and building a plan to produce positive and neutral content about you and your company.

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Excerpt from Chapter 1:

Imagine a place where anonymous vandals can spray repugnant graffiti about you or your business without any consequence. They may call you a criminal, accuse your business of fraud, or reveal your most personal secrets. And this graffiti is viewed not only by a handful of passersby—instead, it is spread worldwide and instantly broadcast to anyone who looks for information about you. You can’t remove the smear, and copies of it are permanently saved around the world.

Sound frightening? You don’t have to imagine this scenario. It happens every day on the Internet. The victims are innocent people—parents, teachers, students, managers, workers, craftsmen, business owners, and more.  Real personal reputations are being trashed with just a few mouse clicks, real businesses are losing thousands of customers due to false reports online, and real relationships are being destroyed by anonymous gossip.

Welcome to the New Digital Frontier

The Internet has changed the rules for reputation. Once, reputation was hard-earned and carefully guarded. Today, your reputation can be created or destroyed in just a few clicks. And there are plenty of people who seek to destroy your reputation: bullies, people jealous of your success, competitors for jobs or customers (or even loves), and gangs of disaffected teenagers. The Internet gives them the power to permanently scar your reputation. They harness the power of Google and the Web to broadcast false and distorted information about you and your business to your closest friends and most distant customers. They can manipulate your photos, steal your secrets, and ruin your credit. If you are prepared, you can defend yourself from these attacks. But if you aren’t careful, you can just make matters worse by fanning the flames.

Don’t even think of ignoring the Internet’s impact on your reputation. The Internet is not some passing fad; it is here to stay. It is the primary source of information about people, products, services, and companies. Even if you don’t use the Internet, your boss, your customers, your neighbors, your friends, and your family do. What they find online will shape how they think about you, for better or worse: they could find slanderous allegations or shocking photos posted by a digital Peeping Tom; your business might be the subject of an online boycott or an urban legend about your business might spread through social discussion sites; or your relationships might be poisoned by false gossip. The worst part is that once false information about you is spread online, it can start a self-sustaining cycle that spreads it further and faster than you thought possible

Luckily, the well prepared can still prosper on this new digital frontier. The Internet is not something to be afraid of; instead, it is a tremendous opportunity to shape the way that people see you or your business. Careful monitoring of your online reputation (or that of your business) combined with delicate intervention can help you make sure that your online image is a true reflection of reality. Often, by acting quickly you can stop online attacks and set the record straight. And careful seeding of positive truthful content will help you improve your social standing, get more clients, or grow your business. Thanks to the Internet, you have the chance to take direct control of the way people see you.

This book will teach you what you need to know to prosper in the new Wild West of online reputation. It will explain the rules of the new digital frontier, teach you to measure and analyze your reputation, and then give you the tools you need to defend yourself from online reputation attack. It will also explain special considerations and tactics for small businesses and professionals. In short, not all hope is lost: by learning the tricks of online reputation, you can defend—or even improve—your online image.

Excerpted from Wild West 2.0: How to Protect and Restore Your Reputation on the Untamed Social Frontier by Michael Fertik and  David Thompson. Copyright © 2010. Published by AMACOM Books, a division of American Management Association, New York, NY. Used with permission. All rights reserved. www.amacombooks.org.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Michael Fertik is the founder and CEO of ReputationDefender, Inc., the world’s first comprehensive online reputation management company, with clients in over 40 countries. He has appeared on “Good Morning America,” “The Today Show,” “The CBS Early Show,” “20/20,” “Fox Business,” and” Dr. Phil,” among numerous programs, and has been featured in publications including The New York Times, USA Today, Forbes, Business Week, Investor’s Business Daily, and The Wall Street Journal. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he serves on the advisory board of The Internet Keep Safe Coalition. He lives in Redwood City, California. David Thompson is General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer of ReputationDefender. A graduate of Stanford Law School, he served as Supreme Court clerk before shifting his specialty to Internet technology and the law. He lives in Los Angeles.

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This post was contributed exclusively for REALTOR® Magazine.

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