Before you jump to the conclusion that this is a blog about images of you not clothed or video indiscretions, let me reassure you - when I use the term "showing up naked online," I am referring to vulnerability, exposure, and lack of intention when you post and engage online. (I'm sure someone else will discuss the risks of being photographed in a bikini... or less...)
When we think of our online activity, most of us savvy in social media, online marketing, and social networking are careful not to leave ourselves exposed to negative perception by disgracing competitors, sharing confidential information about our company, and posting rants that could come back to haunt us. We know that when we say hateful or inflammatory things, we can incite anger and outrage and often the messenger takes the heat for the message.
But what if you are careful about what you post - you do a gut-check, imagine your mother/priest/employer viewing the post and you are okay with the contents - and you still find yourself overly "naked" online? What if you do everything right to reduce risk and you still feel vulnerable and susceptible to misunderstanding and misinterpretation? What then?
My advice would be to ask yourself: 1. Are using the online/social space the way it is intended, as a place of sharing, giving, helping, and engaging; 2. Have you really taken care to present yourself effectively online, using the tools, resources, and insights available? And 3. Do you have a strategy for building your personal brand, or are you letting the online community shape your reputation and perception of self and value?
Here are some concrete ways to make sure you're not showing up naked online.
1. Have a strategy - Every blog or article or book I write on personal branding starts with understanding your personal brand goals and directing your reputation from a strategy. This doesn't have to be cumbersome and consuming, but without a focus you can end up lost online. Remember when Alice came to a fork in the road and asked the Cheshire Cat for directions? He asked her where she was going? When she replied that she didn't care, he stated, "Then it doesn't matter which way you go." Instead of leaving your reputation to chance, create a plan and work the plan!
2. Work a plan - Set a timeline, determine goal, and create tactics to enhance and advance your reputation. Social media is a channel through which you can market and promote yourself, like networking, career growth, and others. Use the plan to guide you and direct how you will show up online, engage with others, and reciprocate. Remember, the online space is social and engaging.
3. Monitor yourself - Before we leave the house or go into an important meeting, we check ourselves in the mirror to make sure we're set. Do the same online. Check your intentions, goals, and vision as you engage with others and represent yourself to colleagues and potential employers online. Then, set up a tool like mention.net or Google Alert to let you know when your name or company is mentioned online.
4. Monitor your competitors and colleagues - Just like you'll monitor yourself, keep an eye on your competitors and colleagues. Be sure you are not exposed or vulnerable because of their activities, posts, or conduct.
5. Choose relationships carefully - In online communities, who you associate with and collaborate with is highly public. Be careful about feeling a false sense of anonymity online, and make sure your online relationships are as credible as your in person ones. Would you bring all your Facebook friends home to meet Mom?
The online world is rich with conversation, controversy, passion, and information. How you show up online is a direct reflection of your intention, goals, and values. With only some exceptions (e.g. in the case of slander or false representation), you can drive your personal brand and reputation online to create the perception of who you truly are. Just make sure you've got your pants on.