As a first step, simply “Google” yourself. Google in this instance is used as a verb, not a noun. You can submit a search using the Web search engine of your choice to find the mentions of your name or your practice.
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Search engines are useful, but they are not the most efficient process for regularly trawling through the multitude of data on the Web. Set up alerts, watch lists, and blog library searches to keep up with more timely postings. Applications like Google Alerts, BlogPulse, Technorati, and many others were set up just for this purpose.
You may find that your search returns far more than expected due to a relatively common personal or practice name. Keep in mind that your patients may be using the same basic search terms and could misinterpret a search result with a similar name as being about you or your practice.
Taking Advantage of It
Your digital footprint should not be viewed as only dangerous. Taking a proactive approach to monitoring and addressing your footprint could enhance not only your virtual reputation, but also your business. Proactively monitoring your footprint can make it easier for you to really understand your business and how it functions from the point of view of your patients and employees.
There are a few steps that you can take to enhance your virtual reputation, beginning with an evaluation of what you find in your searches. If you find information that is clearly wrong or inappropriate, try to contact the user who posted the comment or the Web site administrator and ask to have the comment removed.
Conducting a search can also provide you valuable information on who is talking about you and your practice, as well as how wide their reach is, giving you an opportunity to contact users and provide accurate information. Although it may not be flattering, if what they are saying is accurate, you can now take this new information and use it to improve your practice and your performance.
You may find that these searches provide information on your internal practice environment as well. It is very likely that many of your employees subscribe to (and are active participants in) social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. In this virtual world, transparency reigns and all too often these digital citizens post very personal comments relating to thoughts on their work environment and work relationships. These posts could give you a glimpse into the inner workings of your organization and the real culture, which greatly affects productivity and customer service. This is something that typically is not revealed in an annual review.
Manage Your Digital Footprint
Your virtual identity and that of your practice can provide great opportunities for social marketing as part of your Internet marketing strategies, but only if you make digital reputation management a regular activity. As you review the information available in cyberspace, be sure to take stock of what personal and professional information is in the public domain. What do you say about yourself? What do your connections say about you?