Friday, August 25, 2006

Social media use and Google

Neil Patel did some searching and came up with 10 things Google knows about you. It's not so much what Google knows—they know even more, such as your search history. It's what Google will share with the world, and it's not just Google, it's Internet search in general.
  1. Social bookmarking sites you use
  2. Photo sharing sites you use
  3. Your favorite blogs
  4. Your MySpace presence
  5. Where you blog
  6. Your Wikipedia entries
  7. Forums you participate in
  8. Books you have written
  9. Podcasts you have been on
  10. Your LinkedIn presence

I see three things to take from this list. First—and you really should have done this already—Google yourself (yes, I still use Google as a verb). You should never be surprised by anything someone learns about you online. Set up alerts and vanity feeds to keep track of new references that appear. Then, think about how you can use your visibility in search results to your advantage.

Second, don't use your real name if you want to separate your public image from some of your personal activities (such as personal blogs or photos on Flickr). Don't be surprised if your secret identity is revealed eventually, though. If you really want to keep a secret, don't let it play on the Internet.

Third, turn the list around. These are examples of things Google (and the others) can tell you about other people. If it feels like an invasion of privacy to you, don't do it, but there's useful information out there, and refusing to discover it could be a competitive disadvantage.

The bottom line on privacy is that every new service you use potentially adds detail to your online reputation. You can worry about the loss of privacy, or you can focus on the benefits of visibility. Just remember the level playing field of search: anything "they" can find, you can find, too.



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