As previously-independent bloggers are being hired in droves by the major IT infrastructure hardware and software vendors, attention is turning to their independence and credibility. But this extends far beyond blogs: Today’s social media influencers are everywhere!
Discussions Are On The Move
The new Internet isn’t just about blogs. In fact, the majority of social media discussion and linkage probably happens on Twitter, LinkedIn, discussion forums, and other sites. But non-blog content raises even thornier bias issues than blogs:
- Discussions are less formal than blog posts, so off-the-cuff comments are common. The rapid turnaround of Twitter comments encourages “post-before-you-think” thinking, and knee-jerk comments can be damning. Even if one did not intend to but another vendor down, it’s easy to say something inappropriate.
- The length of a comment is limited, so subtle nuances get lost. I’ve often had trouble saying what I want in 140 characters, and even blog and forum comment conventions restrict verbosity. Again, sometimes your meaty tweet will really cut a competitor to the bone.
- Biographical information is limited. Twitter profiles include just a few words and a single URL, restricting the disclosure of relevant information. Many profiles don’t include the name of an employer or disclosure of other vendor ties. Forum profiles and signatures are similarly restricted.
- The Internet scatters content. Even if one is careful to disclose one’s business relationships on a blog, Twitter profile, or LinkedIn page, interactions go far beyond these.
Conferences are even worse. Many attendees switch badges or intentionally list a different company just to get in the door, obscuring their identity. And no one knows who the guy in row 12 is or why he is asking such pointed questions of the panel. The same thing happens with webinars and Internet polls.
All these limits obscure the good folks out there and conspire to allow the bad ones to act with impunity. This makes everyone suspect. Actively comment on a number of industry blogs and you could be accused of astroturfing! Whether it’s fair or not, employees of hardware and software vendors are being held to a higher standard than so-called independents.
Personal Defensive SEO
I’m going to assume you’re a good egg and want everyone to know where you’re coming from when you interact on the Internet. Many businesses actively engage in search engine optimization (SEO) to help them rise to the top of Internet search results. Individuals need to start doing some SEO, too, but the reason is different: Make yourself easy to find and disclose your connections and you won’t look like a bad egg.
- Get a LinkedIn profile, keep it up to date, and set your name and company information to public. Go to Settings -> Public Profile, and turn on Basics, Summary, Current Positions, and Websites at a minimum. And make sure Websites includes your current employer and blog(s).
- Create a Google profile with links to your LinkedIn profile, blog, Twitter, and other profiles. This helps Google and other search engines disambiguate you from the rest of the crowd. FriendFeed is another great place to set up a profile. I only use Facebook for personal/private connections, so I don’t bother with corporate links there.
- Make sure your blog includes links to your Twitter and LinkedIn profiles, too. And pepper your blog with your own full name so it shows up in Google searches.
- Include your employer’s name in your Twitter “one line bio” and use your blog as your Twitter profile URL.
- Set up Disqus, Intense Debate, WordPress, and Typepad profiles and use them whenever possible.
All this effort won’t directly help you, though it might save a few minutes when you try to comment on a blog. But they will make you easier to find, and reduce the likelihood that someone will accuse you of not disclosing your corporate affiliations.
Astroturf car, public domain image by Ingolfson