Could Google+ Ruin Your Online Personal Brand?

So I got a google+ invite (just bragging)! While I was exploring this new social media and talking to friends and happily putting them all in all of their specifically labeled circles, I started thinking about the amount of metadata that we are creating for each other and about each other. I started thinking about twitter lists, facebook groups, and other classifications in the multitude of social media platforms that we, our company, or our brand, is being put into against our will and without our control.

I understand that people have had these concerns with FB already because they are already doing some of it in a way. But I think that Google is slightly different because people “like” a company on FB or “friend” me and its pretty much exclusive to FB, whereas people “Google” me to find all of my online persona or a company’s online presence. These groups and pages in FB don’t have an effect on people’s search results for me within FB. But, my friends’ classification of me could have a strong impact on what search terms are used to find me or have a strong impact on my public online identity.

Here is another difference, I think. FB uses my groups and likes data to send me more specific and better targeted ads and recommendations. I’m the only one who is really affected by this data because I see the ads and recommendations when I’m online. I see the results of people’s classifications of me. And, for the most part, I’m the only one who does. However, Google can more effectively use this “circle” data to influence the search results for me. Results that anyone can see, that influence how people find me, and that the public can associate with my online brand identity.

This is because these lists and groups generate a massive amount of metadata about our online persona. I originally thought about Google+’s collection of this data specifically because they are in the search, metadata, and ad business. My first thought was how my friends’ classification of me in circles would affect search results for my public online identity (PC Sweeney) that I spent a lot of time constructing. Would it be completely upended because people started putting me in the “douchebag” circle? Would it be possible that whenever someone searched for “assholes” I would rise to the top of the search results because that’s how people had classified me? Or, would I simply continue to be put in the “librarian” circle? Or even… dare I say it? That searches for “awesome” would bring me to the top of Google searches?

But, ok… Let’s just say that I’m put in the asshole circle, twitter list, and facebook list (because that’s more fun). How will that affect my job search or my career advancement? People potentially could see my online brand through search results, and people’s classification of me that I am branded as an asshole. My boss, or future boss could learn about this and it could ruin my career.

While, I think this would be mostly funny, I wonder about larger companies that have been branded by these lists such as BP, PG&E or Walmart. How can they control it? I don’t think they can either. They could try to avoid social media all together to try to limit their classifications. But then what about FB Places or Yelp that automatically generated a social media space for that company? Avoiding social media would be wrong too.

So what is the solution? In the future, starting now, it is going to be more and more important to not be an asshole and more important to just be awesome.


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About pcsweeney

Currently, I'm the Branch Manager of the East Palo Alto Library in California. If you find yourself to be extremely bored (and would like to be more bored) you can find all of my internet mind droppings about libraries by googling pcsweeney.
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11 Responses to Could Google+ Ruin Your Online Personal Brand?

  1. seanmurgatroyd says:

    Actually, I think you’re on a wrongun.

    We all, at some phase of our lives, are “the asshole”. My organisation and 7 other former unitary authorities in my region just went through an amalgamation which had the effect of being a complete restructuring for every single one of 8000 employees over a year.

    It’s simply not possible to live in a time of change on that scale and be awesome all the time.

    Elsewhere in my country, a city is suffering a series of earthquakes. Again, being awesome all the time when you may find overnight that you have no home is not possible.

    The true awesome for lies in owning that, celebrating it and moving on ready to deliver tolerance when the next person is in a hard place.

    Surely a “personal brand” (if such a thing isn’t merely spending an undue amount of time being concerned over the opinions of others) that says “It’s ok to be human and makes mistakes” is going to serve better in the long run?

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  3. Pingback: Google+ you = exposure? | charmadvisors

  4. Simon says:

    I’ve been thinking similar things – Facebook is a walled garden, and what you do there stays within the walls (assuming your privacy settings are sensible).

    But Google+ may not be a walled garden. What you and others do there can leak into Google search results, and can interact in unpredictable ways with the other data that Google has about you – your gmail, your web searches, your google docs, your picasa photos etc.

    At this stage I don’t think anybody knows how this aspect of Google+ will pan out. Facebook and Twitter use has settled into predictable patterns – people and companies have had time to understand them and figure out how they want to use them. We’ll all be trying to figure out Google+ for a little while, and I think it will be fascinating to see the usage patterns develop.

  5. I’ve been working to help my kids learn about the internet and social media (7 and 11)–we were just discussing that the hardest part is that it is always changing and we need to do SO much to educate ourselves and keep up (if that is a goal). Thanks to the advice of a techy Librarian on Twitter –we decided to wait a while for other fish decide how to deal with this new Google+ bait, I am really good at getting hooked by new technology –always something to learn. We follow you blog now and will look forward to seeing what you think!

  6. mrgunn says:

    I’m not saying there’s nothing to worry about, but I will say what the Google+ people told me – No one but the circler themselves can see what circles they have or what they’re called.

    • pcsweeney says:

      I don’t think they’ll change that, but I’m wondering about whether or not that data about the people (how they’re labeled) will be used to influence search results for them.

  7. Pingback: Google+ for Nonprofits and Libraries? Maybe - The TechSoup Blog - Welcome to the TechSoup Community - TechSoup

  8. Pingback: Nonplussed by Google+ – Digitalist

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