Terry’s Tips for Developing and Maintaining a Positive Online Reputation

As a physician, an educator, and an EdTech student it is impossible to not be on the web. Everything we do on the web leaves a digital footprint (those little traces of where you’ve been and what you’ve done) that is indelible. It is important to build a positive online reputation for several reasons including public trust, employment and advancement opportunities, building a brand, and serving as a role model to colleagues and students.

While I do browse a couple of sports and political websites, stream some movies, and buy from Amazon, my visible online presence is mainly of a professional nature. I have developed a few websites and YouTube videos for educational purposes. I  use social media for professional development and rarely for social purposes. I have always had a goal of portraying a certain image online. This requires purposeful development and active surveillance which will be the focus of this post.



From patparslow via Flickr.com


There is a lot written on this topic all over the web so I will focus on what I mainly do and some new things I learned in researching this topic. So here are Terry’s Tips:

  1. Define yourself. Decide on the image you want to portray to the world and build that image.
    • You’ll have to decide on a username. It should be descriptive of you and your talents. If you have a common name, like John Smith, consider adding something descriptive to it (for example JohnSmithEdTech). Whatever name you pick, use it consistently on all your sites. My main identity is as a teacher of EBM principles so my online name is EBMTeacher.
    • Use an appropriate photo. Dress professionally and choose a photo with a high pixel count. Remember you only have one chance to make a first impression.
    • Develop an informative but brief profile description. Highlight your skills and interests (The Ohio State University Career Services Office, n.d.).
  2. Choose the online tools that best match your strategy to define yourself. You should develop a strategy that will maximize your professional presence online. What content will you put on the web? Who is it for? You will need to decide if a website or blog is best for some of your content. Can some content be disseminated by Twitter or other social media? Here again, be purposeful and consistent so your consumers know where to find you and what to expect (Joel, 2009). I use Twitter to share quick ideas and resources. I use my blog to tease out more complex ideas and opinions. I use YouTube to teach EBM concepts to learners. I use SlideShare to share my PowerPoints. I also include a page on my website to share open learning materials that I develop.
  3. Limit what you do and post online. Do you really need to tell or show everyone on Facebook or Twitter where you’re going, what you’re eating or what you bought? Do you really need to take yet another selfie and post it on Instagram? NO! No one cares…trust me…they really don’t. So don’t put a lot of nonsense out there that can shed a less than positive light on you. Remember even if you just send your friends the selfie how do you know they won’t post it somewhere? You can’t control what others do with information about you. You, though, can control what you put out there. So take control (and stay in control).
  4. Have separate personal and professional social media accounts. But remember, just because you have  personal accounts these still reflect upon your professional image because they will be found by search engines. You still have to think before you post.
  5. Follow first. Subscribe to or follow thought leaders or the top “voices” in your field for a little while before adding your voice. This will give you a sense of their style, what they share, and how they share it. You can learn what professionalism looks like online. You can also then figure out what you can add to the discussion. If you can add unique opinions or information you will build your professional brand (Joel, 2009).
  6. Regularly monitor yourself. You need to regularly monitor what you are posting and what gets posted or shared about you. Do a Google search with various variants of your name and with your name in quotes. You can also set up alerts with Google  to notify you when something is posted about you on the web. There are professional services that can be hired to help repair damage to your online reputation. If you find negative posts about you, respond back to set the record straight (Hengstler, p. 119, 2011).
  7. Monitor your professional network for inappropriate postings. Your professional image is also affected by the company you keep. Actively monitor your connections and remove individuals who post questionable content, even if they ae a source of good information. If you find an individual you follow is posting inappropriate materials contact them and tell them you are removing them from your network and tell them why (Hengstler, p. 122, 2011).
  8. Maintain professional boundaries. You don’t need to friend or follow everyone that asks or follows you. This is especially important for educators and physicians. I get requests all the time from patients to be friends on Facebook. I decline them. The power dynamics of student-teacher and doctor-patient relationships are not equal. You have to keep your personal and professional lives separate as much as possible. You don’t want children or disgruntled patients posting negative comments on your own site. I would think most school systems and hospital systems have policies against this and you can politely tell your students or patients that this would be against school or hospital policy (Hengstler, p. 122, 2011).
  9. Buy yourself. What I mean is buy your domain name (yourname.com). Don’t let someone else own your domain name as they could build a website and post whatever they want to. Domain names are fairly cheap through a variety of services like GoDaddy.com (no affiliation) (Digital Citizenship Adventures, n.d.).
  10. Promote yourself. Include your website, Twitter username, etc. on title slides of presentations, in signature blocks of emails, on business cards, etc. This will bring greater exposure and klout (Edminston, 2014).

These are just a few of my thoughts on maintaining a positive online reputation. There are lots of other ideas out there and products you could use. The key is that it requires planning, persistence, and vigilance but it will pay off in the end.


Digital Citizenship Adventures. (n.d.). Managing your digital footprint. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/digcitizenshipadventures/managing-your-digital-footprint

Edminston, D. (2014). Creating a personal competitive advantage by developing a professional online presence. Marketing Education Review, 24(1), 21–24.

Hengstler, J. (2011). Managing your digital footprint: ostriches v. eagles. In S. Hirtz & K. Kelly (Eds.), Education for a Digital World 2.0(2nd ed.) (Vol. 1, Part One: Emerging technologies and practices). Open School/Crown Publications: Queen’s Printer for British Columbia. Retrieved from https://www2.viu.ca/education/faculty_publications/hengstler/EducationforDigitalWorld2.0_1_jh89.pdf

Joel, M. (2009, March 5). How to build your digital footprint in 8 easy steps. Retrieved from http://www.twistimage.com/blog/archives/how-to-build-your-digital-footprint-in-8-easy-steps/

The Ohio State University, Career Services Office. (n.d.). Building your professional online presence. Retrieved from https://asccareerservices.osu.edu/sites/asccareerservices.osu.edu/files/Building%20a%20Professional%20Online%20Presence.pdf


5 thoughts on “Terry’s Tips for Developing and Maintaining a Positive Online Reputation

  1. I definitely appreciate your insight with this topic. You had so many great suggestions. I agree with you that there is no way to be invisible online and I do not believe it is in our best interest as a professional. We do need to brand ourselves and grow a network of colleagues who can help up achieve our best professional goals. Keeping your professional self and personal self separate is very important for this to work to our advantage. Too often I see posts that I do not feel is a positive outcome for that individual. I try my best to think before I post in any platform. Thank you for sharing this excellent blog post.


  2. Before this assignment and reading your post I never really thought of the need to define myself as you describe it. I can’t agree more that it is a great strategy to build your professional digital footprint. Once you have defined yourself, you can carry that over to different social networking sites and hopefully quickly gain credibility from others that may know you from other sites. Also when thinking of your strategy to follow first I would add that once you have followed you need to then become active. I personally find myself lurking in the social networking arena and I need to start becoming more active in the conversation. Thanks for your perspective.


  3. Terry, these are great suggestions for how to create a positive digital footprint. I appreciate that you touched on the professional boundaries issue. That is a difficult topic and the line can get very blurred. On one hand, I completely agree with you that you should not accept everyone who adds you. However, I suggest that there is a way to allow yourself to be a positive role model for students and patients without having those lines crossed. I used to allow my students to follow me on Instagram, but I would not follow them back. However, I did not add any of them on facebook. It allowed them to see into my life a little bit and gave me a presence in their digital life to influence them in a positive way without having those student-teacher lines crossed by being buddies with them. Honestly, I am not sure if that is a good solution; it is a difficult thing to navigate to say the least.

    I would also add to what you say about limiting your posts. Instead, I might say to be intentional about the posts. I am in education, a grad student, a family member and friend, and I also have a side health and fitness business. It is difficult to have accounts or online presences for each of the hats that I wear. Instead, I have read a lot about social media marketing and how to brand yourself. I try to give a comprehensive picture of my life and I intentionally post about each of my hats in order to engage my followers. I may post more selfies than you recommend, but I do it intentionally to reach a specific market and relate to them in a positive way that represents my “brand.” Once again, this is a difficult thing to navigate and balance.

    Thanks for sharing your plan, it is very helpful and gave me a lot to think about!



  4. I am thinking about how those techniques of bascially professionally building (a professional) avatar can be handy for learner. What your wrote about is mostly about this learning model, when there’s a person acting as a teacher and students are less visible in the process. Their job is to learn, not to present themselves in excess.
    However, I think that some of those suggestions could be used for enhancing learning experience while using learning management systems, namely creating more perfect teams of adult co-learners – a community of people learning from each another.

    Thanks for the post, I need to chew on this right now 🙂


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