Maintaining your online reputation is necessary due to the reality of the Internet: Everybody’s free to share their opinions — and many will. You can’t necessarily control this, but you can put yourself in position to be viewed in the best possible light.

I’ll start by saying this: Authenticity is the cornerstone of building and maintaining a reputation, and one of the best tactics to do this digitally is by staying transparent. While there is no shortage of resources for establishing your online reputation, every individual will have to figure out what authenticity means for them. Online reputation is a two-way street — it may seem daunting to deal with negative comments and such within the lightning-fast internet information cycle, but you also have the means of communicating directly with everyone (whether friends, family members, mere acquaintances or even random trolls) in order to provide them a path forward. In many cases, you can right wrongs and take ownership of areas in which you’ve fallen short without turning a complaint into a crisis.

Authenticity goes beyond addressing concerns. Any person looking to take control of their reputation should make a point to stay active on major channels and interact with those in one’s sphere of influence. Not only does it build relationships, but it also lets you consider feedback and inform your opinions on various matters. It’s an opportunity for true growth.

Transparency is important here; you might solicit feedback and receive some hard questions from those around you. However, while it may seem easy to deflect questions or ignore them completely, transparency is ultimately more beneficial in the long run. If you have a hard time being transparent with those closest to you, it may be time to ask what improvements you can make in yourself. Ignoring criticism doesn’t make it go away, and can in fact be worse than just addressing the root of the problem.

Sometimes, reputation management is about what you do behind the scenes. It’s evident if you don’t put in the time and thought into what you choose to put online. In short, if you post garbage, it’s going to come back to haunt you. The stuff doesn’t go away. In fact, it multiplies and takes on a life of its own. Granted, you can only control that to a point; we all have our embarrassing moments, and friends who have been all too eager to record them for posterity. But to the best of your ability, you have to try. Because if you don’t, they will resurface at the worst possible moments, like when a coworker is googling you or you are trying to impress somebody in a personal setting.

Reputation management takes a lot of work, as it requires you to build respect and communicate consistently and honestly with your online contacts. It also can’t be overlooked. A relatively minor issue can build into a crisis and cause you irreparable damage, so take control early and start building authenticity.