It’s a unique time: We can learn nearly everything there is to know about everyone (and any organization) in minutes nowadays – at least, the details that are worth mentioning online – just by using a search engine. Google, Bing, Ask.com and other Internet services have revolutionized how we research. It’s a topic we explored recently in bestselling book The Business Etiquette Bible, and thought we’d share our tips on how to most effectively use search engines here as well. Because the question this opportunity presents is how to utilize all this information while still respecting others’ boundaries. A few tips that may help you conduct smarter online searches follow:
- Many view it as fair game to research a potential employer, client, or trade partner online when considering working together, or starting a new strategic relationship. But consider how much digging is appropriate – do you really need to see family photos, or know every last intimate detail about what they do in their off-hours? Let logic be your guide.
- Tread carefully when bringing up controversial information found in a Google search with other parties, as data may be false, misleading, unrepresentative of actual character and professional values, or relate to issues that the person may not feel comfortable speaking about, or would prefer to discuss at another time.
- Google yourself and see what online history you can discover, and consider whether you feel it’s ethical trying to scrub any dirt away before others find it. However, it is wholly appropriate to ask that offensive, false, misleading or needlessly defamatory posts be removed, and to take steps to lower their search result rankings. Note that Google has historically made a point of not actively stepping in and modifying search results.
- Create a Google Alert based on a series of keywords (i.e. your name or business’ name), and Google will contact you whenever your name, your organization’s name, or another related topic comes up on the web, allowing you to stay on top of related postings.
- Consider that there are likely multiple people and businesses who share the same or similar names before confronting a person with something you found online that you believe is related to you or your organization.
For more, also be sure to see The Business Etiquette Bible