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Featured Article from The ATA Chronicle (May 2010)


Managing Your Online Identity for Your Translation Business’s Success

By Marcela Jenney

It has been 40 years since the Internet first came on the scene, during which time it has transformed from a data information communication system to a social gateway. When the Internet first appeared, it served as a system to relay e-mail and as a means for users to exchange messages through various newsgroups. Those were its main functions until the early 1990s, when Tim Berners-Lee developed a protocol that allowed communication between an HTTP client and a server, which led to the birth of the World Wide Web and the explosion of information in cyberspace. During those early years many tried to create websites, which turned out to be an endeavor few could handle due to its technical complexity. Even the small number of companies privileged enough to have a presence within this new communication channel did not take full advantage of the enhanced ability to connect directly with their target markets. As a result, these early players often ignored the conversations occurring about them in the “back rooms” of cyberspace (e-mails, forums, chat rooms). In 1999, in an effort to explain the potential of the phenomenon of “networked conversations” to organizations, four authors came together to write The Cluetrain Manifesto. This work became, almost unintentionally, a prophetic document of what the Internet would become in the next decade. “The Internet will change everything,” these prophets wrote, and they were not wrong.1

In the early 21st century other developments helped the message contained in The Cluetrain Manifesto gain strength. First, a few software programmers began developing simple content management systems for personal use that allowed online content to be managed easily. This eventually led to the emergence of blogs. Google then started promoting those websites that met industry standards through frequently updated content and allowing incoming links from other sites. Google embraced the blogs and allowed them to appear in the first positions of its search engine rankings, making visible the human conversations that were taking place, including the ones from those companies that paid close attention to the trend that “markets are conversations.” All this is now history. While there are still businesses and individuals alike reluctant to accept social networking, it is a reality and there is no going back.

The emergence of the social Web, coupled with the current economic downturn, has led to further changes in conventional marketing and advertising. Internet usage continues to increase rapidly worldwide, having grown 461.5% from 2000 to 2009.2

What is important about this figure is that it signifies that the Internet is not just another communication channel, but a comprehensive infrastructure that allows us to showcase our products and services to a global market. Businesses have transformed their marketing into interactive conversations, and we are active participants in them.

Enter Web 2.0
The Internet is no longer a place where users are passive viewers of the information provided to them. In 2004, in a brainstorming event called “Friends of O’Reilly,” the term Web 2.0 was first coined to describe a second generation of Web applications in which online information shifted from a static to a dynamic state.3 Web 2.0 is not a type of technology or system. Rather, Web 2.0 is about sharing information and expressing our opinions and beliefs in a highly interactive way in an open environment. Others learn about us, and we learn about others. It is very transparent, and the line that used to divide our private and public space is now blurred. The new Web has become a social platform in which we are “exposed” to the world.

Google the Verb
Google has evolved from a brand name into a verb. The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary defines it as “to use the Google search engine to obtain information on the Internet.”4 This development seems to reflect the growing importance of the Internet as a social network. It also means that users need to begin to evaluate thoroughly the content they put up for the world to see.

Google provides its users with the most relevant and useful information, including facts about you, your expertise, your business, and personal life. When potential employers, clients, and leads are interested in you or your business, they use Google to check you out. In a 2009 study on online reputation commissioned by Microsoft, which includes data not just from the U.S. but also from the U.K., Germany, and France, 79% of
U.S. hiring managers and job recruiters surveyed said they reviewed online information about job applicants. Most of those surveyed said that what they found online influenced their selection criteria. In fact, 70% of U.S. hiring managers in the study said they have rejected candidates based on what they found.5 An earlier study conducted by Execunet in 2007 showed 45% of managers rejected candidates based on what they found. So, obviously, this trend is increasing.6

Influence Factor
As a professional, you have an online reputation to protect that is influencing the decision-making process of your stakeholders. You are being “watched” online. A 2009 study conducted by Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey of over 25,000 Internet consumers from 50 countries found that recommendations from personal acquaintances or opinions posted by consumers online are the most trusted forms of advertising worldwide. The survey showed that 90% of consumers surveyed said that they trust recommendations from people they know, while 70% trusted consumer opinions posted online.7 People buy from people they trust. Developing an online identification builds trust and virtual rapport.

Impact of Social Networking
In 2009 Career Builder conducted an online survey with 2,667 hiring managers and human resource professionals to determine the degree to which employers utilize social networking sites to screen potential employees.8 The results were astonishing: 45% of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates (a 22% increase from 2008), and another 11% plan to start using social networking sites for screening. Another interesting finding for the translation and localization industry is that the industries most likely to screen job candidates via social networking sites or online search engines include those that specialize in technology and sensitive information: information technology (63%) and professional and business services (53%). Some of the content that contributed to the elimination of a potential candidate included:

• Posting inappropriate photographs or information.

• Revealing content about drinking or using drugs.

• Bad-mouthing previous employers, co-workers, or clients.

• Showing poor communication skills.

• Making discriminatory comments.

• Lying about qualifications.

• Sharing confidential information from a previous employer.

• Sending messages using an emoticon.

• Using texting language such as GR8 (“great”) in an e-mail or job application.

Managing Online Identity
What does all this mean for you? Managing your online identity/reputation requires you to learn what is being published about you and to control the information you want available online. Here are seven tips that can help you build and control your online reputation:

1. Diagnose. Go to Google and enter your name in quotation marks in the search field to get the most accurate results. Are you surprised, disappointed, or excited by what you see? If you find other people with the same name as yours, use keywords to eliminate false hits. Add keywords that apply to you only, such as your profession, city, and credentials. For assistance, Online ID Calculator (www.onlineidcalculator.com) is a very useful tool that allows you to determine your baseline Google Quotient (GQ) and to see where you stand on the digital scale. Ask yourself if the search engine results you see communicate your unique value. Are they consistent and clear regarding how you want to be perceived?

2. Monitor your name. Sign up for Google Alerts (www.google.com/alerts) and enter your name in the search field. You will get e-mail updates whenever your name comes
up in websites, blogs, Facebook, etc., all indexed by Google.

3. Create social media profiles. If you do not have an online profile on the most popular professional networks such as LinkedIn or Xing, it is time to create one. Think of these profiles as your interactive business card. Make sure, however, that your profile is a true representation of your value proposition. Complete the profile in its entirety and ask for professional endorsements. Nothing builds credibility like third-party endorsements! Check to see that your information is accurate, up to date, and complete. Include a professional, high-quality headshot of you alone.

4. Clean up any existing online profiles. Go back to your social media profiles, including Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, and LinkedIn, and review the existing content (including photos, videos, comments, etc.). Look for anything that could be detrimental to your reputation. As an ambassador of proper communication, it is important that you always check your profiles for improper grammar or poor language use. Avoid slang, vulgar expressions, or content with a potential unsavory or misinterpreted meaning.

5. Join the conversation. Social media allow you to connect to your audience directly, but do not just take a “listener” role. If you engage in communication with others and share valuable information, you will soon be presented with greater opportunities to grow your online presence. To get started, Twitter is a great tool that provides real-time content.

6. Create your “presence” on the Web. You need to create your own space on the Web for both visibility and credibility. Use traditional content such as your own website or blog, or publish articles of interest to your target market. These vehicles are not to be used to brag about your capabilities. Use them to provide your perspective on relevant items within your online community. Search engines love blogs. By adding your own insightful comments, you will be adding positive fuel to the fire.

7. Use a friendly conversational tone. You might want to think twice before speaking your mind to criticize someone online, and that includes peers, clients, colleagues, competitors, friends, and family. It is perfectly okay to disagree and to be disagreed with, but do it in a polite and professional manner. You do not want to ruin anyone’s reputation online. If you feel very strongly about a particular subject, it is better to contact that person in private to sort things out. If you make a wrong move online, the consequences could be catastrophic. Such missteps could also prove hard to remove once they have been published in an online forum.

External and Internal
Your online identity should always be clear and congruent with your skills, strengths, passions, human voice, and goals. Find that “voice” you want to be known for and control your presence online. In many ways, you can no longer be successful unless you are visible. The more visibility you have externally, the more respect and credibility you will have internally. Visibility provides you with the leverage to build the partnerships you want. For top executives and business owners, this is no longer an option. It is obvious.

Notes
1. Locke, Christopher; Rick Levine; Doc Searls; and David Weinberger. The Cluetrain Manifesto (Perseus Books Group, 2000).

2. Usage and Population Statistics (Internet World Stats, 2010), www.internetworldstats.com/top20.htm.

3. O’Reilly, Tim. What is Web 2.0. Designing Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software (O’Reilly Media, Inc., 2005), http://oreilly.com/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html.

4. Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online, www.merriam-webster.com.

5. Online Reputation in a Connected World (Cross-Tab, 2010), www.microsoft.com/privacy/dpd/research.aspx.

6. Digital Dirt Derails More Job Searches as Recruiters’ Use of Search Engines Increases (ExecuNet, 2007), www.execunet.com/ m_releases_content.cfm?id=3651.

7. Global Advertising: Consumers Trust Real Friends and Virtual Strangers the Most (Nielson Company, 2009), http://tinyurl.com/lb4x7m.

8. Career Expert Provides Dos and Don’ts for Job Seekers on Social Networking (CareerBuilder.com, 2009), http://tinyurl.com/yhyhkj8.

 

Related Links

Online ID Calculator
www.onlineidcalculator.com
Determine your baseline Google Quotient (GQ).

Google Alerts
www.google.com/alerts
You will get e-mail updates whenever your name comes up in websites, blogs, Facebook, etc., all indexed by Google.

LinkedIn
www.atanet.org/linkedin.php
ATA’s group on LinkedIn provides an ideal starting point for online networking.

Twitter
www.twitter.com

Xing
www.xing.com

Marcela Jenney is an ATA-certified English-Spanish translator with 20 years of experience in the language industry. She has an MBA in marketing and holds certifications as a professional coach, business cross-cultural trainer, localization project manager, and personal brand strategist. In 2004, she served as the president of the Florida Chapter of the American Translators Association. Contact: marcela@latitudescoach.com.