Who am I? This question has been with us for thousands of years and has been examined by philosophers, religions, and psychologists. But now, people are turning to the internet for answers to this question. We all have web identities whether we’re aware of it or not. And in an era when anything can be quickly googled, (in the United States HR managers have rejected candidates at a 70% level based on web searches) our online identities can have a real impact on our lives.
This month’s featured entrepreneur, Peter Sterlacci, started the Kyoto-based company BeYB to help customers with managing their web identities and building a personal brand.
Kansai Scene: What prompted your interest in the web identity area?
I am my company’s brand and so when I decided to launch my busi-ness I needed a sense of how I appear on the web. The bottom line is that Google defines how the world sees you. If you Google your name you might be surprised at what you see or even what you don’t see. Are you digitally distinct or digitally disguised? I needed to know. I used an awesome free tool called the ‘Online ID Calculator’, which measures your digital identity (www.onlineidcalculator.com). This gave me a starting point to know how to build my online reputation. It also was an eyeopener as I discovered just how critical it is to establish an online presence that accurately communicates how I want to be known to the world. The web is a powerful force to both build and destroy one’s credibility, visibility, and likeability.
KS: When did you create your consulting company and who are your typical customers?
I started my business in the summer of 2011 after deciding to no longer do the corporate nine-to-five thing. My typical customers are Japanese who want to be “remarkable, not invisible” (to borrow the words of Seth Godin) in a global environment. Interestingly, I also attract foreign clients who want to know how to brand themselves in a culturally appropriate way in Japan.
KS: What are some common mistakes people make regarding web identity?
The biggest mistake I see is people rushing to create online profiles with-out being clear about their message. This is where understanding your own personal brand is so critical. It is so much harder to change your online reputation later. Therefore, spending the time upfront to understand what you want to be known for is vital. The other mistake is simply not being strategic in what you post on social media, how your comment on a blog, or the images your share. All of this feeds into how you are seen and has the potential to come back and haunt you. Employers are scouring the web to learn about you, so I tell people to use the ‘grand-mother test’. If you don’t want grandma to see it, then don’t post it!
KS: can you suggest how we can improve our online identities?
We all need to get into the habit of ‘ego surfing’, googling our own name, on a regular basis. In some cases, you might have the same name as someone with a bad online reputation. Here’s the good news. Digital dirt can be either cleaned up or hidden. A rule of thumb is to make sure at least the first page of search results conveys an accurate portrait of your identity. A great tool for this is www.vizibility.com, which creates your own free ‘search me’ button that links people to only the Google results you have pre-selected and verified about yourself. Another awesome tool is www.brandyourself.com, which offers a basic free service to optimize the first page of search results and ensure only the good stuff shows up! I personally pay for their premium accounts, which give me even greater control over my online reputation. Finally, set up ‘Google Alerts’ for your name and Google will email you when your name shows up online. This helps you to stay on top of how the world sees you.
Dr. Zurcher is currently teaching an Entrepreneurship in Japan class for his foreign and Japanese students.
Peter Sterlacci will be the guest presenter at this month’s Kansai Scene Business Matters event:
Personal branding: for your career & business in Japan & beyond
• Date: May 21 (Tue)
• Time: 7:30–9:30pm
• Entry: ¥3,000 w/1d + pinchos
• Venue:Trois Dix organic restaurant, Osaka
For full details and registration, visit: www.kansaiscene.com/businessmatters