Mathias Bergendahl's Marketing Blog

How to Damage Your Reputation in Eight Easy Steps
July 16, 2009, 3:34 pm
Filed under: General Marketing Topics, Social Media Marketing

Most bloggers get their ideas for what they’ll write about from things they observe around them, and I’m certainly one of them. In fact, the subject of today’s blog post has been on my mind for several months. Some of the things I’ll touch on I’ve used in previous blog posts. Some of them I’ve used in the social media marketing classes I teach. All of them I’ve gathered from monitoring the use of FaceBook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and ActiveRain.

Your reputation is your most valuable asset and it must be protected. The fact that how you’re perceived in the marketplace will dictate your success cannot be denied. The cornerstone of your business must be to build credibility and instill trust so that you become known for your work ethic, your commitment to customers, how responsive you are, and your knowledge.

In the past we spent weeks developing ads that would accurately reflect who we are. We took professional photographs to look the part. We would continuously work on our biographies to make sure they would spell out our qualifications to serve those we seek to reach. We wrote letters carefully to make sure grammar and spelling were correct, and especially making sure the tone was appropriate.

Then FaceBook and other social media platforms came along. Things we typically would never share with others are now considered news worthy for anyone who’ll listen. Many say “oh, it’s just FaceBook” and “everyone on there knows me.” The latter part isn’t necessarily true as people you may not have connected with before will come across your profile.

Effectively, the profiles you have online and the content you post all contribute to the branding of you and your business. The purpose of this article is to highlight actions that easily can damage your reputation, and provide ways by which you can prevent that from happening.

1. Branding Yourself as a Fan of Playboy Magazine

Let’s say I want to introduce myself to someone at a fundraiser. I walk up to the person and say “Hello, my name is Mathias – it’s nice to meet you.” After a minute of initial introductions I continue “I would like to share with you that I like Playboy magazine.”

Seems crazy, doesn’t it? Of course I’d never do that (even if I liked the magazine) and I’m quite certain most wouldn’t (even if they liked the magazine). But, while monitoring the use of FaceBook I’ve come across quite a few professionals who become fans of various entities and groups that to some probably might be deemed questionable. Others may even be turned off by any such choice.

When you choose to become a fan of a FaceBook page, my suggestion is to choose carefully in order to make sure those you want to form relationships with will not find your affiliations distasteful or even offensive.

2. Enough with the FaceBook Quizzes

Which 80s rock star would you be? If you were an animal, what would you be? Is your IQ higher than that of your friends? What’s your favorite dish?

The list of available quizzes on FaceBook is endless and so seems the time available for many who take them. If a client has hired you to assist them, they expect you to put 100% into the effort. Seeing you take quiz after quiz during the work day may give the impression that you’re not hard at work.

I admit that some quizzes are rather entertaining and enticing to take. My recommendation is to do that within a personal FaceBook account (more on that later). And, refrain from inviting others to take quizzes as they may consider you a spammer.

3. Online Photo Album 101: No, I don’t want to see your Speedos

Have you been to Las Vegas recently? I recently came upon proof that some things that happen there don’t always stay there.

Case in point: I recently came across a photo album on FaceBook and the pictures within weren’t exactly flattering. Simply put, poolside pictures and photos from late-night parties may not be the best way to convey professionalism.

Personally, I suggest posting pictures with an abundance of caution. Additionally, ask friends and those around you to refrain from posting pictures of you online until you’ve had a chance to review them.

4. Use Platforms for Both Business and Pleasure

I recently visited a website for an attorney. Curious to find out more about his business, I clicked on a link to YouTube and a formal video presenting the company started streaming. Once I’d viewed the video I went to see his YouTube profile. I wish I hadn’t. While the company presentation certainly was professional, the other available videos, featuring the attorney attending a recent street party (I’ll refrain from giving further details), didn’t quite reflect professionalism.

Similar to pictures, I would recommend using caution when sharing videos online. In the event you do want to share videos with friends, consider setting up a separate YouTube account so that those wanting to know more about your business do not mistakenly come across videos you’d prefer they didn’t see.

5. Cyber-TMI: Finding a Balance of What You Share

It’s natural to want to share our thoughts, beliefs and opinions with others. We want others to get to know us beyond the professional exterior to see the values we hold. However, most would probably agree that there are some topics one should try to avoid, especially when working to establish new relationships. For any conversations, hot button topics such as abortion, gun control, and certainly religious affiliations, should be avoided in order to not offend anyone. While you’re fully within your rights to support a particular candidate running for office, be cautious when you share your views online so that you don’t alienate those who may have different political views.

While we may know to avoid such potential mine fields offline, it seems the casualness of social networking sites lead to the abundance of opinion-sharing. The golden rule of social networking is: anything you would hesitate to share offline should be avoided online.

6. Tell Them Like It Is!

Have you come across a news article you completely disagreed with? Did you post a comment? You’re not alone. These days there’s no shortage of ways we can comment on news stories, articles, and television shows. Every anchor at CNN, Fox and any other network invites viewers to post comments through blogs, Twitter and FaceBook, and newspapers typically invite comments directly underneath the article.

Be cautious when posting a comment or writing a letter to the editor. While your point may be accurate there’s still the potential that readers may not agree with you or find the tone too strong. Remember, all such comments are now saved forever online.

7. Want to Be My friend?

On any given day I receive a number of requests to be a “friend” on FaceBook, “follower” on Twitter, and “connection” on LinkedIn. At least half of the requests come from individuals I’ve never met or spoken with. There’s no doubt that having online connections can be an excellent way to build up a referral network, even a group of potential buyers. But, a bit of social networking etiquette is in order. My suggestion is to first make sure to establish offline relationships before attempting to create them online.

8. Nobuddy Cares About My Speling

Few things will build a negative perception of you as much as poor spelling. Picture a prospective client coming across a text full of spelling errors and imagine what it will convey. Make sure you use spell check before posting any content online, and consider asking a colleague to read what you’re about to post before it goes live.

Top five things you can do to protect yourself:

1. Ask yourself whether you’d be comfortable seeing what you post on the front page of the New York Times. If you hesitate, considering revising your information or avoid it all together.

2. Look at your posts and materials as if you read and viewed them through the eyes of the reader. Is there anything you would possibly react negatively against, or at least find questionable? If you hesitate, even the slightest, well, see point 1.

3. Hurry up and wait when getting ready to post online. If you just finished writing a blog post, consider scheduling it to publish three hours later. That gives you plenty of time to review and, if you find something you’d like to change, there’s time to edit your post before it goes live on the Internet.

4. Set up a Google alert so that each time your name is mentioned on the Internet you’ll receive a notification via email. It’s an easy and effective way to monitor where your name shows up and a great way to make sure your name isn’t used in a negative way.

5. FaceBook gives you several options on how you want to set up your profile. First, you can have your profile set to either private or public and you you can choose to have a strictly personal account and one devoted only to your professional connections. Consider having your profile public as you want as many as possible to get to know about you and your business. Alternatively, you can have a private profile and then have a separate public page with all your business information. Regardless of which option you choose, make sure you only post information and materials you’d only share with your personal friends in a place the general cyber-population can’t access them.

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6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Excellent article ~ thank you!
(See you on FB)

Comment by Althea Garner

Well said. I wish more people could see this. Thanks.

Comment by sandyramseth

Mr. Bergendahl,

Thank you for taking the time to write this article. It should remind all of us to think before we act, and that a bit of common sense goes a long way! I’ve always been a big fan of circumspection.

Comment by Mark Strickland

Mathias, great information and so true. I especially love the “hurry and wait” response to posting blogs. So often I read FB posts of fellow associates and wonder what they were thinking about when they posted their comments. The internet is a great resource but one must remember that one cannot hide. If you put something out there, it’s bound to surface at some time.

Comment by Christine Citrano

Great class! Thanks, Michelle

Comment by Michelle

Great post!

Comment by leahshouse

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