Online identity management

Online identity management (OIM), also known as online image management, online personal branding or personal reputation management (PRM), is a set of methods for generating a distinguished Web presence of a person on the Internet. Online identity management also refers to identity exposure and identity disclosure, and has particularly developed in the management on online identity in social network services or online dating services.[1][2]


One aspect of the online identity management process has to do with improving the quantity and quality of traffic to sites that have content related to a person. In that aspect, OIM is a part of another discipline called search engine optimization with the difference that the only keyword is the person's name, and the optimization object is not necessary a single web site; it can consider a set of completely different sites that contain positive online references. The objective in this case is to get high rankings for as many sites as possible when someone search for a person's name. If the search engine used is Google, this action is called "to google someone".[3]

Another aspect has to do with impression management, i.e. "the process through which people try to control the impressions other people form of them". One of the objective is in particular to increase the online reputation of the person.

Pseudonyms are sometimes used to protect the true online identity of individuals from harm. This can be the case when presenting unpopular views or dissenting opinion online in a way that will not affect the true identity of the author. Facebook estimates that up to 11.2% of accounts are fake.[4] Many of these profiles are used as logins to protect the true identity of online authors.

The entity's presence could be reflected in any kind of content that refers to the person, including news, participation in blogs and forums, personal web sites,[5] social media presence, pictures, video, etc. Because of that, online identity management often involves participation in social media sites like Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter,, Myspace, Quora and other online communities and community websites, and is related to blogging, blog social networks like MyBlogLog and blog search engines like Technorati.

OIM can also consist in more questionable practices such as the case of buying "likes", "friends", or "subscribers".[6]


The objective of online identity management is to:

  1. Maximize the appearances of positive online references about a specific person, targeting not only to users that actively search for that person on any search engine, but also to those that eventually can reach a person's reference while browsing the web.
  2. Build an online identity in case the person's web presence is minimal or nonexistent.
  3. Solve online reputation problems. In this case, the process can also be named online reputation management.[7]


The reason why someone would be interested in doing online identity management is closely related to the increasing number of constituencies that use the internet as a tool to find information about people. A survey by found that one in four hiring managers used search engines to screen candidates. One in 10 also checked candidates' profiles on social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook.[8] According to a December 2007 survey by the Ponemon Institute, a privacy research organization, roughly half of U.S. hiring officials use the Internet in vetting job applications.[9]

The concept of manipulating search results to show positive results is intriguing for both individuals and businesses. Individuals that want to hide from their past can use OIM to repair their online image and suppress content that damages their credibility, employability and reputation. By changing what people see when searching for an individual, they are able to create a completely new and positive identity in its place. In 2014, the EU ruled that people have "The right to be forgotten", and that in some circumstances content can be removed from Google's search index.

See also


  1. Tufekci, Zeynep (2008). "Can You See Me Now? Audience and Disclosure Regulation in Online Social Network Sites". Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society. 28 (1): 20–36. doi:10.1177/0270467607311484.
  2. Siibak, A. (2007). "Casanova` s of the Virtual World. How Boys Present Themselves on Dating Websites". Young People at the Crossroads: 5th International Conference on Youth Research in Karelia; Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia, Russian Federation; September 1-5, 2006. (Eds.) M. Muukkonen& K. Sotkasiira. Joensuu University: Joensuun yliopisto. pp. 83–91. ISBN 978-952-219-020-8.
  3. Seth Godin (January 2, 2008). "The first thing to do this year". Seth Godin.
  4. PROTALINSKI, EMIL. "Facebook estimates that between 5.5% and 11.2% of accounts are fake". The Next Web.
  5. Marcus, Bernd; Machilek, Franz; Schütz, Astrid (2006). "Personality in cyberspace: Personal web sites as media for personality expressions and impressions". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 90 (6): 1014–1031. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.90.6.1014. PMID 16784349.
  6. Learmonth, Michael (2009). "Want 5,000 More Facebook Friends? That'll Be $654.30". AdvertisingAge, September 02, 2009.
  7. Susan Kinzie and Ellen Nakashima (July 2, 2007). "Calling In Pros to Refine Your Google Image". The Washington Post.
  8. Cristian Lupsa (November 29, 2006). "Do you need a Web publicist?". The Christian Science Monitor.
  9. Ellen Nakashima (March 7, 2007). "Harsh Words Die Hard on the Web". Washington Post.
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