More than a quarter of Americans, including more than one in three Millennials, now believe that they are more likely to make a first impression online than at a party.  That’s one key takeaway from a new survey of Americans conducted by Domain.ME, the provider of the .ME domain extension, which examined our complicated relationship with our online reputations.  The survey reveals that, while we may understand the profound impact online content can have on our “real lives,” Americans aren’t necessarily taking useful steps to burnish their online reputations.

Survey results show that Americans are aware of the power of online information to impact their personal brand – more than half of respondents reported being concerned that information about them online could negatively affect their reputations.  And, based on other survey data, they are wise to be wary:

  • Nearly one in four (24 percent) Americans admit to being negatively affected by information about them online – that number is even greater amongst Millennials, nearly half of whom (43 percent) have had online information negatively impact them.
  • 42 percent of Americans surveyed actually have changed their opinion about someone based on content they saw about them online – including 57 percent of Millennials.
  • At some point, you’ve probably been “searched” by someone before they’ve met you.  For instance, the survey revealed that it’s common behavior for Americans to conduct a search on someone a friend has mentioned in conversation (23 percent), a health care provider with whom they have an appointment (27 percent) or a first date (14 percent).

Survey results showed, however, that despite the risks, many people do not employ common tactics for protecting or promoting their good names.

  • More than half (53 percent) of respondents surveyed admit that they do not monitor information about themselves on the Internet.
  • 60 percent of Americans have not searched for their name on a search engine (like Google) – of those who do, nearly half (47 percent) only do so once or twice a year.
    • When they do search for online content about themselves, only 1 in 5 find that the information that appears is exactly what they want people to know about them.
  • 79 percent of Americans self-report that they haven’t tried to manage information about themselves online.
    • Only 8 percent have created online content to improve their search results or reputation
    • Only 6 percent of Americans have purchased a domain address that includes their name

“More than 3 billion people worldwide use the Internet every day.  Online content about each of us creates a distinctive digital portrait – one that can be accessed by anyone at any time,” said Predrag Lesic, CEO of Domain.ME.  “The Internet is an increasingly powerful tool for making a first impression – both personally and professionally.  As this survey shows, many of us can take a more proactive and mindful approach to online content, and use it to our advantage.”

Survey respondents recognized the advantages of harnessing the power of the Web, and identified personal websites as a potential boon to their reputations:

  • 27 percent of Americans agree that managing their online personal brand could help them achieve personal and professional goals.
  • More than half of Americans (61 percent) agree that a personal website could help manage their reputation online, with 1 in 5 saying it is the tool that could potentially have the greatest positive impact on personal brand.
  • The types of content that could be featured on a personal website including professional work-related achievements (42 percent), awards or honors (35 percent) and volunteer activity (35 percent) were identified by Americans as having the most positive impact on someone’s online reputation or brand.

For more information on the Domain.ME survey, including full findings, please contact MWWPR at (312) 981 – 8541.

The Domain.ME survey was conducted by Wakefield Research in October 2015 amongst 1,000 nationally representative U.S. adults ages 18 + who regularly use social media and the Internet.

This article first appeared on PR Newswire on Nov 17, 2015.