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Protecting Your Good Name Online

Online-reputationIt is probably understood, but here it is anyway: You should not post photos of yourself doing questionable activities to social media. This is just common sense when it comes to managing your online reputation, right? Yet, you would be surprised how many people forget their professional etiquette when posting. Sure, it is fun to share your weekend escapades with all your friends, but do not ignore the business aspects of your online presence as well.

Thanks to the Internet, you most likely developed an online reputation without even knowing it. Now it’s up to you to protect your good name—or do a little damage control. As Warren Buffett once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”

Accentuate the Positive

The Internet provides vast opportunities for accountants to spread the word about themselves and their organization’s brand, as well as reach new clients and customers. Yet, in this techno-savvy world, clients and customers also enjoy unprecedented power to voice their opinions about you and your company—and what they say online may not all be flattering. To find out what people are saying, Google yourself and your business. If a search produces unpleasant information, you most likely won’t be able to get it removed, but you can work to bury it with positive content.

For example, the website Yelp actually allows you to respond directly to clients or others who have “voiced” a bad experience online. Remember, when you respond you are talking as much to potential clients who may read the review as you are to the client who initially posted the negative comment, so keep the content upbeat. If the dialogue is especially unsettling, you may wish to take the conversation offline—but do attempt to proactively rectify the issue. Vocal customers may amend their opinion of you or your firm if given a reason and the opportunity to do so.

You can also set up professional profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to overshadow unflattering information. Search engines typically rank these links high, so positive comments should appear before negative ones. Update the content often. Updated information usually moves to the top of the search engine results.

Be on the Alert

We’ve obviously established the fact that it’s important to find out what people are saying about you and your organization online, but who really has the time to manage this activity? Good news! Tools such as Google Alerts can monitor search engines for you. When you sign up for these free alerts, you will be notified when your name turns up in a news article or blog post. That way you can review the information and its impact, and address it accordingly.

Reputation is Everything

Reputation truly is everything for accountants and their careers. In the event your good name is tarnished, it can be a long road to reparation. The best defense against an unwanted online presence is prevention. Take the time to care for your online reputation and let the technology work in your favor.

The AICPA published this two-page brochure for AICPA members that discusses Yelp reviews, their impact and how to respond to a negative comment.

AICPA Young CPA Network. The Young CPA Network is a vital community in which young and aspiring CPAs can seek answers and advice regarding career challenges and opportunities, while building the supportive network of professional relationships they need to be successful in the CPA profession.

Online reputation image via Shutterstock

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